Throughout much of the last decade, the AFC has been dominated by strong quarterback play in the playoffs. That has seen some the elite talent in the conference at the position continue to push forward deep into the playoffs. In the last several years, it has seen Tom Brady dominate that conversation over that span that has seen the New England Patriots continue to experience a tremendous amount of success in the process. However, the Patriots loss in the wildcard round to the Tennessee Titans has broken an impressive playoff trend.
The Patriots fall to Titans
Beyond the chatter around Brady‘s long-term future with New England, the team entered the wildcard round for the first time in a decade in their attempt to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
However, they were cut down a peg at home against a motivated Titans’ team that played stout on both ends of the field. Star running back Derrick Henry showed out as the best offensive factor on the field after notching more than 200 total scrimmage yards, including a franchise playoff record 182 rushing yards in the contest.
Brady struggled to truly get it going against Tennessee that equated to zero points scored in the second half with them failing to reach the conference championship game for the first time since the 2010 season, which effectively ended an eight-year streak of reaching that contest. The Patriots’ loss also signaled the end of another impressive streak that goes beyond Brady’s success over the last several years.
Tom Brady’s loss snaps incredible AFC streak
Over more than the last half-decade, the AFC has been dominated by two of the league’s greatest quarterbacks, with Brady and Peyton Manning reaching the Super Bowl.
Although Manning has been retired for the last three years, the Patriots’ star quarterback continued that trend during that span. However, Saturday’s loss to the Titans marked the first time that neither these two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks will have the chance to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.
It speaks more greatly to Brady’s longevity in the latter stages of his career as he reached the Super Bowl four times over five years. New England’s departure now gives a chance for a new face to represent the conference in the Super Bowl with the likes of Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Ryan Tannehill all left in the AFC playoff picture heading into the divisional round.
Beyond that, it sets up what should be an entertaining pairing of games to see which teams can move a step closer to earning a berth in the AFC Conference game.
Ushering a new era in the AFC?
Yes, it’s quite difficult to count out the Patriots in any capacity given their track record, but the franchise could be headed in another direction after this upcoming offseason. There is no certainty that Brady will be back with the team next year, there is also a chance that his play could decline in his 21st season.
That should create a window of opportunity for the next generation of quarterbacks, led by Jackson and Mahomes, to step in as the possible top team to vie for the Super Bowl in the conference. Watson will also be in the picture while Tannehill may have finally found the perfect situation for him in his career to lift off finally.
More than anything else, it may just signal that the Patriots’ grip hold reign over the rest of the AFC may have finally lessened. Other teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans could step in as the next wave of top-tier teams in the conference. The AFC may be more wide open than it has been in quite some time.