The Houston Texans won the AFC South the last two seasons with nine victories each time.
That won’t be good enough this season – and our Talk of Fame Network poll has determined that the Texans won’t be good enough, either.
There are eight returning division champions, and we asked our listeners and readers to vote on the defending champ most likely to miss out on the playoffs this season. Even with a healthy J.J. Watt and a young, new quarterback, the Texans received 31.4 percent of the vote, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs at 22.1 percent, the Dallas Cowboys at 17.4 percent and the defending NFC champion Falcons at 14 percent.
The Packers, Patriots, Steelers and Seahawks were all considered safe with single-digit doubt.
The three Talk of Fame Network hosts disagreed with the poll result. Most of them, anyway. Rick Gosselin cast his vote for the Texans, citing greater competition in the division from Indianapolis and Tennessee. But Ron Borges and Clark Judge both cast their vote for the Chiefs as the most likely to fall short of the playoffs.
“Kansas City is in jeopardy,” Borges said. “The walls seem to be closing in on Alex Smith, which could put their quarterbacking picture in flux. Even if it doesn't, if the Raiders stay healthy they are the best team in the division and should put the Chiefs in flux.”
There is a history of failure for division champions. Only two of the eight division champions in 2015 managed to defend their crowns in 2017. And since 2000, only 56 of the 132 division champions managed to repeat. That’s just 42 percent of them.
What’s interesting is that the only two teams that won division titles each of the last two years are the Patriots and Texans. But this September will mark the third consecutive year the Texans have opened the season with a new starting quarterback. It was Brian Hoyer in 2015, Brock Osweiler in 2016 and this season rookie DeShaun Watson appears likely to get the call.
The Patriots, of course, will open yet another season with Tom Brady at quarterback. This will be the 16th consecutive season he pencils in as the starter and flag bearer of their playoff hopes. He’s helped win them 13 division titles in that time. He’s also the reason the Patriots received only one vote in our poll, suggesting that they were the most likely division champion not to repeat.