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2014 NFL Playoff Picture: Breaking Down What Must Happen In Browns-Ravens And Chargers-Chiefs For The Houston Texans To Make The Playoffs

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Should the Houston Texans manage to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, they still need the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs to win for Houston to get the second wild card in the AFC. BRB's Brett Kollmann breaks those games down.

The Browns must do this on Sunday without the benefit of J.J. Watt.
The Browns must do this on Sunday without the benefit of J.J. Watt.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans are in this thing. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but they are.

One year after a disastrous 2-14 campaign that saw the fall of Matt Schaub and the firing of Gary Kubiak, Bill O’Brien has found a way to drag a depleted roster to the brink of the postseason despite playing with a fourth – fourth! – string quarterback who was not even in the building a week ago. The obvious argument for Coach of the Year accolades can be made another day, however, because this team has a shot to get to play January football. Though that chance may be small, the fact that it even exists for the Texans in the final week of the regular season is a Christmas miracle all its own.

Let’s break down the non-Texans games on that list, shall we?

Browns @ Ravens

Cleveland and Baltimore have not met since the Browns hosted their first divisional game back in Week Three. The Ravens came out with a narrow victory, but neither team is even remotely the same creature they were early on in the season. Baltimore’s secondary is in shambles after a season-ending injury to Jimmy Smith, and they have to deal with a relatively fresh-legged Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron this weekend. Meanwhile, the Browns secondary has also suffered a litany on injuries, including a banged-up Joe Haden and the absence of star free safety Tashaun Gipson after his season ended prematurely due to injury as well.

On the other side of the ball, Cleveland has not had steady quarterback play for two months now, and they could be starting Connor Shaw for the first time in his career.  Additionally, Cleveland's top two running backs are rookies, and arguably their second best player on offense – Alex Mack – is done for the season. Baltimore has problems of their own with an inconsistent Joe Flacco, a depleted tight end corps, and pretty much one capable wide receiver in Torrey Smith. Throw in a possibly gimpy left tackle, and you have yourself a recipe for a poor offensive performance against an effective defense like the one fielded by the Browns.

In short, this game could go either way. Both teams are limping into Week Seventeen battered, broken, and still bitter as tense division rivals. Every Houstonian will be an honorary Browns fan this weekend, but victory is far from guaranteed.

Chargers @ Chiefs

Help us, Kansas City, you’re our only hope. I am not one to normally root for the Chiefs (quite the opposite, actually), but we need Kansas City to pull off the upset at home. Alex Smith still has somehow not thrown a touchdown to a Chiefs wide receiver – that is almost inconceivable to not even accidentally toss one at some point – and Jamaal Charles is banged up. Nobody should expect a lot of offensive production from the Chiefs this weekend, which is why we should hope for a defensive explosion. Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and Dontari Poe need to play the game of their lives…for our sakes, at least.

Conversely, Texans fans should hope that Philip Rivers somehow has a bad game in December, which has been very hard to come by throughout Rivers’ career. We need San Diego's offensive line to fall apart, the Keenan Allen-less receiving corps to not be open, and the Ryan Mathews-less running back stable to be shut down. If KC’s defense does not show up in Arrowhead, the Texans go home empty-handed. It is as simple as that.

Parting Thoughts

Houston of course needs a lot of help to make it to the postseason this Sunday, but all hope is not lost. These are three very winnable games for Cleveland, Kansas City, and the Texans themselves. If Case Keenum can beat the Ravens, who knows…maybe Connor Shaw can too. Crazier things have happened, after all.

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