Yes, Jim. I'm Talking About Playoffs.

 

Even though I don't remotely believe in most superstitions, I'm always pretty aware of them.  I love to walk just short of the path of a black cat, I willingly open umbrellas indoors, and I always talk about a no-hitter as it's unfolding.

What can I say?  I'm that guy. 

I just can't believe that any action I take in the comfort of my own home could possibly have any impact on the outcome of a game that may or may not be happening within a thousand miles of me. 

Setting aside any religious views, let's pretend we lived in a world where there was complete agreement in the existence of some higher power that manages and controls all activities in the world.  The complexities of such a job would be staggering, and all the interactions would have to constantly be manipulated.  I would have to believe that linking the activities of one drunk guy to the actions of 53 guys in another state would fall extremely low on said deity's honey-do list (and the type of thing that would cause said deity's wife to totally hold out on him if he did this over say, weeding the Elysian Fields).

Furthermore, if we assume that there is at least one fan of another team with similar views, there would inevitably come a time where both of us simultaneously jinxed opposing teams, causing the universe to explode.

So, even though it's only Week 8, let's flick a virtual finger at superstition and talk about playoff scenarios.  If this makes you uncomfortable, I recommend against jumping.

According to Football Outsiders, your Houston Texans have the highest probability of making the playoffs of any team in the AFC

Really.

Just stop reading for a second, and let that sink in.  Aaaaahhhhhh.....

Not only that, the Texans also have the third highest probability of making the playoffs of any team in the NFL behind only the undefeated Packers and the 5-1 49ers (who essentially clinched the NFC West when they recorded their fifth win).

Despite all the concerns about the quarterback, the complaints about the coaching, or the fears about mounting injuries, your Houston Texans are sitting pretty with an 89.7% chance of making the playoffs.

More interesting, though, is that the team stands a better chance of having a first round bye than all but two AFC teams:  the Patriots and the Ravens.

Let's expand on that a bit. 

In order to achieve a first round bye, the Texans would have to finish as one of the top two division winners in the AFC. 

If we assume the Patriots to be one of those two teams (Football Outsiders puts this at over 50%), then the Texans would have to surpass both the AFC West winner and the AFC North Winner.

Phrasing that another way, there are essentially three teams that could stand between the Texans and the divisional round of the playoffs:  the Chargers, the Ravens, and the Steelers (yes, I'm dismissing any other team from winning those divisions - there's no way anyone else can win the AFC West and finish with a record better than the Texans, and if the Bengals win the AFC North with a rookie quarterback, the apocalypse is among us and none of this matters anyway).

The Steelers lead this quartet of teams with a 5-2 record at the moment and are probably the Texans' biggest threat.  Their next two games are against the Patriots and Ravens, but after that, the toughest remaining game on the schedule is Week 15 against San Francisco (yes, I'm still dismissing the Bengals the same way Chris Johnson dismissed responsibility).

The Ravens are currently 4-2 and might arguably have an easier schedule remaining.  They have games against the Steelers, Chargers, and 49ers (who likely aren't as good as their record) and otherwise a bunch of games they "should" win.

Lastly, the Chargers also sit at 4-2, but they actually have some tough games remaining.  They have two against Oakland and games against Green Bay, Detroit, Baltimore, and Buffalo. 

Now, the good news.  All three of those teams have serious weaknesses.  The Steelers have an aging defense and an offensive line that is the NFL's version of a colander.  The Ravens continue to employ Joe Flacco at quarterback, and the Chargers, at last check, were still the Chargers.

Do the Texans have weaknesses too?  Absolutely.  Are they capable of losing games they should win?  No doubt.  But so are all those other guys.  I'm not trying to pretend this is a complete fairy tale or a done deal.  The Texans don't exactly have a history that inspires confidence in their ability to close the deal.

When looking at the facts, however, you have to be a little optimistic about not only their chances to finally break the aging playoff drought, but also to possibly continue the trend of not playing on Wild Card weekend.

If you're reading this and thinking that I just ruined the team's future, then we clearly have different opinions on the concepts of cause and effect.  I don't believe that discussing this at this point of the season in any way impacts the performance of the team in the near or distant future.

Instead, I feel that despite some of the struggles the team has faced in the first seven weeks, they're actually positioned pretty well for a strong run to the playoffs.

And if in fact I have just screwed with fate, then I owe you a Coke.

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