Head Coach Bill O’Brien has repeatedly told his team and media to “not take the cheese” in reference to the tendency for players to read their own headlines, begin to look forward to NFL Playoffs, and lose focus on the task at hand.
O’Brien never said anything about queso, though.
That’s right, Texans fans. It’s time to grab a big ol’ bag of salty chips and celebrate nine wins in a row by dunking your favorite snack right into some ooey gooey queso. The Texans have locked in a winning record for the 2018 season and still have four games to play. Even with the litany of cellar-dwellers the Texans have faced this season, the team is beginning to truly look as though they can make a run in the playoffs. Times are good in H-town. Almost too good. But before you begin to question the validity of this Texans team, do me a favo. Reach back into that bag of chips and have yourself another glob of queso dip.
Although the Los Angeles Rams are the only team to officially clinch a playoff spot so far, several teams, including your Houston Texans, are poised to solidify their spot in the upcoming weeks. The Texans only play one team with a winning record for the rest of the season, and that team (the Colts) was shut out by Jacksonville last week. All things are pointing in the right direction for the Texans, but there is still a ton more to gain in the weeks to come
Before we get too excited, let's break down the current AFC Playoff Picture.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-2)
Most Difficult Game Remaining: at Seahawks (53% chance to win)
Percent Chance to Make Playoffs: 99% (According to the Upshot
WILD CARD: Los Angeles Chargers
Most Difficult Game Remaining: at Chiefs (37.1% chance to win)
Percent Chance to Make the Playoffs: 96% (According to The Upshot)
New England Patriots (9-3)
Most Difficult Game Remaining: at Steelers (59.9% chance to win)
Percent Chance to Make Playoffs: 99% (According to The Upshot)
Most Difficult Game Remaining: at Eagles (42.8% chance to win)
Percent Change to Make Playoffs: 98% (According to The Upshot)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1)
Most Difficult Game Remaining: at Saints (27.5% chance to win)
Percent Chance to Make Playoffs: 83% (According to The Upshot)
WILD CARD: Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
Most Difficult Game Remaining: at Chargers (24.4% chance to win)
In The Hunt
Miami Dolphins (6-6) — vs. Patriots (9-3), at Vikings (6-5-1), vs. Jaguars (4-8), at Bills (4-8)
Denver Broncos (6-6) - at 49ers (2-10), vs. Browns (4-7-1), at Raiders (2-10), vs. Chargers (9-3)
Tennessee Titans (6-6) — vs. Jaguars (4-8), at Giants (4-8), vs. Redskins (6-5), vs. Colts (6-6)
The most immediate milestone the Texans can accomplish is securing the AFC South Division by beating the Colts on Sunday, accompanied by a Tennessee loss or tie. Or the Texans can tie with the Colts and a Tennessee loss would guarantee a division title. The Texans currently have a three-game lead on the Colts; a win this week would be a major step for the team to claim the division outright.
If the Texans can secure the AFC South with three more games left, they will set their collective eyes on a greater goal; a first round bye in the playoffs.
Currently, the Texans are the third seed in the AFC and would face the Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. In that scenario, the Ravens’ defense would feast on the Texans’ offensive line, and the Texans’ defense would have to face the assorted compliment of play-making options the Ravens posses. Although the game would be in Houston, the Texans would face a team punching well above the weight of the current class of opponents. To add on to that, if they beat the Ravens, the Texans would then have to face a team who had a week off to prepare for them. The Texans have never had the privilege of skipping the first week of the playoffs, so it would be quite an advantage for the team to have a break before their playoff game.
The Texans have made the playoffs four times and are seeking their fifth trip now. They have never been in the position to get a bye in the playoffs and host a home game in the second round.
For the first time in years, the Texans are in the hunt for a first round bye. To get there, they will need a couple of games to fall their way. Namely, either one of the Chiefs or Patriots has to lose two or three games
If you want to run your own scenarios, click here and “The Upshot” will take you through their own simulated playoff scenarios.
According to The Upshot, if the Texans win out and finish the season 13-3, there is an almost 96% chance they receive either the first or second seed in the AFC Playoffs. The Texans ultimately could be in control of their fate throughout the postseason and would be a great position to make a run.
The Kansas City Chiefs (10-2) have a game up on the Texans and would need to drop at least one game for the Texans to catch them in the playoffs. With the more difficult schedule compared to the Patriots and the subtraction of Kareem Hunt from the offense, the Chiefs falling apart late is more likely. If the Chiefs lose one more game, for example to the Chargers in Week 15 on Thursday Night Football, there is around a 40% chance.
The biggest question for the Texans moving forward is whether the Texans can lose one more game and still get a bye. Between the Colts, Jets, Eagles, and Jags, the Texans are likely to drop one game. Any loss for the rest of the season would allow for at most a 25% chance to grab a bye in the playoffs.
Since 2010, the average AFC first and second seeded team has 12.56 wins on the season. With that trend, the Texans have room for error, but not much. The Patriots hold the head-to-head tie breaker over the Texans and have a smooth road to the playoffs, if not already being the favorite for one of the byes.
As the dust begins to settle on the 2018 regular season, the likelihood of the Texans being the third seed is more realistic. The Steelers are struggling to hold onto the division lead in the AFC North due to a Week 1 tie with the Browns. The Chiefs’ daunting schedule could open the door for the Texans to steal home field advantage, but Kansas City still may be the best team in the conference even without Kareem Hunt. Who knows how good the Patriots actually are? History, however, says they’re likely to capture one of the top two seeds in the conference.
Do you think the Texans will get a bye in the playoffs?