A few days ago, CanuckTexan e-mailed me, asking if he could do a breakdown of what needed to happen for the Texans to clinch a playoff berth this week. Never one to turn down a free post, I quickly acquiesced, and what you see below is wholly his work and his alone. Give him all the credit, and rain all the hate down on me if there's anything amiss. Take it away, James (his real name):
I've decided to give TDC a week off. Last week he wrote how the Texans could clinch a playoff spot after Week 12, and I'm going to do the same, but for Week 13.
The huge Thanksgiving win over Detroit (one of my most stressful as a fan) obviously helps the Texans inch closer to clinching, but they're still not quite there. A 10-1 record makes the playoffs all but inevitable, but the sooner the Texans can actually clinch, the better. Once they have a playoff spot in hand, a division win and the 1-seed will go a long way in helping them reach New Orleans for a certain big game in February.
So how can the Texans get the first step out of the way and clinch a second-consecutive playoff spot in Week 13? Let’s find out.
CURRENT AFC STANDINGS
AFC South leading Houston Texans - 10-1
AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens - 9-2
AFC East leading New England Patriots - 8-3
AFC West leading Denver Broncos - 8-3
Indianapolis Colts - 7-4
Pittsburgh Steelers - 6-5
With a Texans victory over the BESFs in Week 13, Houston will be sitting pretty at 11-1. Eleven. And one. That would be the best record in franchise history. Let that sink in.
With 11 wins in the bag, your Houston Texans will have clinched a playoff spot. The Bengals and Steelers, two teams that could finish ahead of the Texans’ 11 wins, face off in Week 16. If the Texans can just take care of the BESFs on the road, they’re in. If they tie, they’re still in. If not, it's a whole different story.
With comfortable division leads held by the Patriots, Ravens, and Broncos, the only three teams the Texans really have to worry about with regard to clinching are the Dolphins, the Steelers, and the Bengals.
The Dolphins play host to the Patriots at 12:00 p.m. While any loss by the Patriots helps Houston’s quest for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, a loss by the Dolphins means just one more result pushes the Texans over the edge and likely makes them the first team to clinch a spot.
That result would have to be a loss by either the Steelers (in Baltimore) or Bengals (in San Diego), with both games coming at 3:25 p.m. If the Dolphins manage to pull off the upset versus New England (a result I’m sure we’d all gladly welcome), both the Steelers and Bengals would need to lose to allow the Texans to clinch (again, if the Texans lose in Nashville on Sunday).
Texans fans everywhere are obviously hoping for more than just clinching a simple playoff spot, but as TDC pointed out last week, clinching a spot is “a necessary step and will always be a noteworthy occurrence.” And that’s an occurrence that is getting more and more likely with each passing week.
After that step is eventually taken, the next step will be a division title, and eventually, hopefully, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Those might take a little bit longer, but are not far off as one may think. With a Texans win and a Colts loss in Detroit (1:00 p.m.), the Texans will have a comfortable four-game lead on the Colts with four games left to play. With two of those games coming against the Colts themselves, however, the Texans need until at least Week 14 (where they travel to New England and Indianapolis hosts the BESFs) to clinch the division.
The next goal would be to then clinch the awesomely convenient home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. While the Ravens (at 9-2) and the Broncos (at 8-3) both have a shot, the fact that Houston has managed to beat both of those teams makes the Patriots likely the only team standing in Houston’s way. Next week’s match-up in Foxborough will have huge consequences in determining who gets the 1-seed, especially if New England wins the rest of their games.
Buckle your seatbelts, Texans fans. It’s going to be a fun ride.
Thanks again to James for taking the time to figure all of this out. If you want more of his analysis, don't hesitate to follow him on Twitter--@JGewurz.