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Analyzing the Texans' playoff chances


EDITOR'S NOTE: *Click here for updated playoff scenarios as of Dec. 28.
One of Gary Kubiak's goals for the past few seasons has been to have the Texans play meaningful games in December. With his team at .500 after back-to-back victories, Kubiak has the Texans in position to do just that in the final two weeks of the 2009 season.

As one of six 7-7 teams in the AFC, the Texans trail the 8-6 Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos by one game in the Wild Card standings. If the Texans beat the Dolphins at Miami on Sunday, there are only two possible scenarios that could eliminate the Texans from playoff contention before the final week of the season.

Knockout scenariosOne knockout scenario would require the Cincinnati Bengals to win at home against the Chiefs, the Ravens to win at Pittsburgh and the Broncos to win at Philadelphia this week.

The other way the Texans would be eliminated is if the Ravens and Broncos win, and the New York Jets win at Indianapolis.

Unless one of those scenarios unfolds, the Texans' playoff hopes will be alive when they face the AFC East-leading New England Patriots at Reliant Stadium on Jan. 3. Provided, of course, they beat the Dolphins – a 7-7 team fighting for its playoff life – at Land Shark Stadium on Sunday.

"If we don't win, it doesn't matter," Kubiak said on Monday. "Bottom line, we're in an elimination game, really, this weekend because whoever doesn't come out of this game victorious has no chance. Our guys understand that, so it's a very, very big game and Christmas week, a lot of things going on, so we've got to keep our focus and get ready to go down there. We're going to have to play very well as a team."

If the Texans beat the Dolphins and then beat the Patriots, they'll finish with a four-game winning streak and the first winning record in team history.

Whether it's enough to make the playoffs for the first time will be determined by the rest of the teams in the Wild Card chase.

Texans-in-the-playoffs scenariosAny playoff scenario involving the Texans requires the team to win its final two games.

Of the other 7-7 teams in the AFC, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dolphins, Jets and Tennessee Titans each need to lose one of their final two games.

The Jaguars, who would beat the Texans in the head-to-head tiebreaker, finish their season with road games at New England and Cleveland.

The Dolphins would fall behind the Texans if the Texans beat them on Sunday.

The Jets, who would own head-to-head and conference record tiebreakers over the Texans, finish at Indianapolis and at home against the Bengals.

The Titans, who have a better division record than the Texans, host the red-hot San Diego Chargers on Christmas Day, then travel to Seattle to face the reeling Seahawks in Week 17.

The last 7-7 team, Pittsburgh, doesn't have to lose. The Texans would win a two-way tie with the Steelers by virtue of having a better record in common games.

As for the 8-6 Ravens and Broncos, one of them likely has to lose their final two games for the Texans to have a chance at the playoffs. The Ravens' remaining schedule takes them to Pittsburgh and Oakland, while the Broncos are at Philadelphia this week and finish up at home against the Chiefs.

A 9-7 Texans team would lose a tiebreaker to a 9-7 Ravens team because of a worse conference record, and it'd lose to a 9-7 Broncos team because of worse strength of victory.

Another scenario would involve the Ravens winning their last two games and the Bengals losing their last two. The Ravens would win the AFC North, and the Texans would win the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bengals. This scenario still would require the Jets, Jaguars and Titans to lose one game each in the final two weeks.

Playoff Scenarios – By Team

Cincinnati Bengals
Current seed: 4th (Lead AFC North)
Record: 9-5 overall (6-4 AFC, 6-0 division)
Remaining schedule: KC (3-11), @NYJ (7-7)
Texans need them to: Lose two, finish 9-7 AND Ravens win two, finish 10-6, win AFC North
Tiebreaker: Texans win on head-to-head record

Baltimore Ravens Current seed: 5th (1st Wild Card)
Record: 8-6 (6-4, 3-2)
Remaining schedule: @PIT (7-7), @OAK (5-9)
Texans need them to (A): Lose two, finish 8-8
Texans need them to (B): Win two, finish 10-6, win AFC North AND Bengals lose two, finish 9-7
Tiebreaker: Texans lose on conference record

Denver Broncos
Current seed: 6th (2nd Wild Card)
Record: 8-6 (6-5, 3-2)
Remaining schedule: @PHI (9-4), KC (3-11)
Texans need them to: Lose two, finish 8-8
Tiebreaker: Texans lose on strength of victory

Jacksonville Jaguars
Current seed: 7th
Record: 7-7 (6-4, 3-3)
Remaining schedule: @NE (9-5), @CLE (3-11)
Texans need them to: Lose one, finish 8-8
Tiebreaker: Texans lose on head-to-head record

Miami Dolphins Current seed: 8th
Record: 7-7 (5-5, 4-2)
Remaining schedule: HOU (7-7), PIT (7-7)
Texans need them to: Lose to Texans in Week 16, finish 8-8
Tiebreaker: Texans would win head-to-head record

New York Jets Current seed:9th
Record: 7-7 (5-5, 2-4)
Remaining schedule: @IND (14-0), CIN (9-5)
Texans need them to: Lose one, finish 8-8
Tiebreakers:Texans lose on head-to-head record and conference record

Pittsburgh Steelers
Current seed:
Record: 7-7 (4-6, 1-4)
Remaining schedule: BAL (8-6), @MIA (7-7)
Texans need them to: N/A
Tiebreaker: Texans win on common games record (would have 4-1 record vs. Steelers' 2-3 record in games against TEN, CIN, OAK, MIA)

Tennessee Titans
Current seed: 11th
Record: 7-7 (4-7, 2-4)
Remaining schedule: SD (11-4), @SEA (5-9)
Texans need them to: Lose one, finish 8-8
Tiebreaker: Titans win on division record

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