A decade after the Steelers led the AFC Central to dominance in the late 1970s, that division is again No. 1 in the NFL. The AFC Central has the tightest top-to-bottom standings of the league's six divisions and, with an 18-13-1 record against out-of-division opponents, is competing with the NFC West (16-11 going into Monday night's Giants-49er game) for the best record in interdivision games.
The key to the AFC Central's resurgence, after having hit bottom a few years ago, is that by mid-decade each of the division's four teams had found its quarterback of the future. The Bengals' Boomer Esiason, now 28, replaced an aging Ken Anderson for good in 1985; Warren Moon, 33, came from the CFL to take over the Oilers in '84; Bernie Kosar, 26, was plucked from the supplemental draft to save the Browns in '85; and the Steelers' Bubby Brister, 27, was drafted in '86. This season those quarterbacks rank second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the AFC's passer ratings. The chart below shows how the AFC Central has fared in interdivision games during three periods since 1978.
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