Let us be clear, the Houston Texans earned their playoff birth. Defeating the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night with the final score of 23-19, the Texans eliminated the Colts and secured at worst, the seventh seed in the NFL Playoffs. They went 10-7 this year, completing a turnaround no one saw coming, thanks in part to a trio of rookies; quarterback C.J. Stroud, defensive end Will Anderson Jr., and head coach DeMeco Ryans.
Those three men helped lead the Texans to the promised land and got them over the hump (alongside a team of hard-working people who also contributed.) This was not a team that lucked into the playoffs or had a winning record. This is a real playoff team.
They earned it.
But it's also fair to say they didn't "earn" the AFC South title, so much as the Jacksonville Jaguars blew it. All the Jaguars had to do was win, and they would be the AFC South champions. They were playing a beaten-up Tennesee Titans team. It should've been so easy. Plus, the Jags were getting back their star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
But then the game happened and the Titans won 28-20. In doing so, the Texans leapfrogged the Jaguars into first in the AFC South, and through the victory of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday, the Jaguars found themselves not only out of a division title but out of the playoffs.
A shocking turn of events, considering that the Jaguars staved off the Texans all season; even defeating them in their second head-to-head game to give themselves a cushion for their divisional lead. A lead that the Texans had a chance to erase several times this season.
Most notably it happened In the head-to-head meeting with the Jaguars, which would've given the Texans the lead for the AFC South title, and then in losses against the New York Jets, and the Cleveland Browns, when the Texans could've made up significant ground to overtake the Jaguars.
The Jaguars found themselves in a position where they just had to win and the Texans would be on the outside looking in. That didn't happen and the Jaguars fell apart, giving the AFC South to the most unsuspecting team in the NFL; the Houston Texans.
The Texans may not have won the AFC South convincingly by beating the Jaguars themselves, but they did win the division all the same. It's a huge feather in the cap of everyone involved and while surprising that it happened, it doesn't take away from the championship pedigree being developed in Houston.