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Deciphering The Texans' Playoff Chances

I know that writers on other sites as well as this one have broken down the possibilities of your Houston Texans making the postseason, but I found myself doing the math today so I thought I'd share it with everyone.  I know it's a little silly to talk about the playoffs when you barely put away a struggling St. Louis Rams team, but we might as well know what it will take so we know when to give up the dream.

There are two 8-6 teams currently holding the two AFC wildcard spots.  There are an additional six teams that are still in the chase at 7-7.  Considering the absurd amount of possibilities those eight teams with remaining postseason chances present, it's important that everyone knows the tiebreaker criteria.  Below is that criteria which should be followed until one is applicable:

1.  Head to Head

2.  Divisional Record (only applicable if deciding between two teams of the same division)

3.  Conference Record

3 4.  Best record against similar teams (minimum of four)

4 5.  Strength of victory (points for minus points against)

Author's Note:  There are more tiebreakers, but the chances of any being necessary are amazingly slim.

It seems fairly obvious that the only way that Houston could make the playoffs is to win their two remaining games.  In addition to that happening, the Texans need a great deal of luck, considering that they control their own destiny with just two of the seven teams still in the hunt.  I'll break each one down, but all are under the assumption that the Texans take care of business, which won't be easy.

1.  Baltimore Ravens - Despite the Ravens tallying one more win than the Texans at this point, this is one of the few teams that a tiebreaker would not favor against us.  If the Ravens were to lose one game, the Texans would have an advantage under criteria 3 4 as Houston is currently 2-2 against like opponents (Indianapolis, Oakland, Cincinnati, and New England) and Baltimore is 0-4.  The Ravens still have to face Pittsburgh and Oakland; losing to either team would suffice for us.

2.  Denver Broncos - As with the Ravens, the Texans could conceivably beat the Broncos in the case of a tiebreaker.  The Texans could finish with the same AFC record (6-6), and if they beat New England they would have identical records against like opponents (New England, Indianapolis, Oakland and Cincinnati).  The only way that this could happen though is if the Broncos lose to Kansas City in the last game of the season and do not outscore Philadelphia by enough to overcome the point differential lead the Texans currently hold (Broncos - 25, Texans - 41).

3.  Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jags have beaten the Texans twice this season and therefore hold the tiebreaker.  The only way that we can overcome them is if they lose at New England this week or at Cleveland in Week 17.  Obviously the more likely of the two would be New England this Sunday.  This would also help the Texans cause because a win against the Jags and a Houston win over Miami would clinch the AFC East for New England, making the week 17 contest between the Texans and Patriots less significant for New England.

4.  Miami Dolphins - This is one of the few instances in which the Texans control their own destiny as they play Miami this week.  It would actually been nice for the Dolphins to beat the Tennessee last week because the Texans would still make the playoffs over Miami because of a head to head win but a Tennessee loss would have knocked them out of contention.

5.  Tennessee Titans - The Titans hold a tiebreaker over the Texans because of a superior division record (Titans:  2-4, Texans:  1-5).  The only way that Houston can jump into the playoffs ahead of Tennessee is if the Titans lose to San Diego on Thursday or at Seattle in Week 17.  Hopefully the Chargers stay red hot in an attempt to lock up the second seed in the AFC.

6.  New York Jets - The Jets hold a tiebreaker over the Texans because of a win in Houston in Week 1.  The only way that the Texans can beat the Jets to the postseason is if New York loses in Indianapolis this week or against the Bengals in Week 17.  Luckily, the Colts are exclusively in pursuit of history now that the Saints lost and the Bengals are still fighting to lock up the AFC North and a higher playoff seed.

7.  Pittsburgh Steelers - This is one of two teams that Houston doesn't have to worry about winning their two remaining games.  They don't play each other this season, and they would finish with identical AFC records if both teams won out (6-6).  Against like opponents (Oakland, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Miami) though, the Texans are 3-1, whereas the Steelers are 1-3.  Even if the Steelers beat Baltimore and Miami, the Texans would have the tiebreaker because of criteria 3.  Obviously, it would be nice if Pittsburgh beat Baltimore for previously mentioned reasons, although their game against Miami in Week 17 is inconsequential for our purposes.

So there it is.  Does your head hurt as much as mine?  Again, all of the above is completely moot unless the Texans win their two remaining games against the Dolphins and Patriots.  Even if the aforementioned scenarios don't turn out in the Texans' favor, winning the last two games would give the franchise its first winning record and go a long way to keeping Gary Kubiak around for an additional season.  In summation, the Texans have to take care of business and have four of the remaining teams (Broncos, Ravens, Titans, Jets and Jaguars) lose at least one more game.  Feeling lucky, Texans fans?

Late Edit:  As Nolander pointed out in the Comments, my math with the Ravens was wrong.  For us to top them, they would have to lose to both Pittsburgh and Oakland to give them the same conference record as the Texans, which would be irrelevant for tiebreaker purposes because that would leave them with an 8-8 record.  Sorry for this mix-up; this post exhausted all of my cognitive abilities.  So now we need Tennessee, Jacksonville, New York and Denver to all lose at least one more game, or have three of them lose another and Baltimore lose both remaining games.  Even better.