The Texans will need to win, win, win and get lots of help to reach the postseason, but they're still mathematically alive in the AFC Wild Card race.
Here's a look at the AFC playoff picture through 14 weeks of the 2009 season. I'll update this list every Tuesday from here on out.
Clinched: Indianapolis Colts (13-0, clinched AFC South/homefield)
Division leaders: Colts, San Diego Chargers (10-3, AFC West), Cincinnati Bengals (9-4, AFC North), New England Patriots (8-5, AFC East)
Wild Card leaders: Denver Broncos (8-5, AFC West), Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6, AFC South)
In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (7-6, AFC North), Miami Dolphins (7-6, AFC East), New York Jets (7-6, AFC East), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7, AFC North), Tennessee Titans (6-7, AFC South), Houston Texans (6-7, AFC South)
Staying alive: Buffalo Bills (5-8, AFC East)
Upcoming matchups: The three remaining opponents of the Texans and each team ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Included are the division-leading Bengals and Patriots, whom the Texans still can catch in the Wild Card standings if either team loses its division lead.
Cincinnati: @SD (10-3), KC (3-10), @NYJ (7-6)
New England: @BUF (5-8), JAC (7-6), @HOU (6-7)
Denver: OAK (4-9), @PHI (9-4), KC (3-10)
Jacksonville: IND (13-0), @NE (8-5), @CLE (2-11)
Baltimore: CHI (5-8), @PIT (6-7), @OAK (4-9)
Miami: @TEN (6-7), HOU (6-7), PIT
N.Y. Jets: ATL (6-7), @IND (13-0), CIN (9-4)
Pittsburgh: GB (9-4), BAL (7-6), @MIA (7-6)
Tennessee: MIA (7-6), SD (10-4), @SEA (5-8)
Houston: @STL (1-12), @MIA (7-6), NE (8-5)
Tie-breakers: Since the Texans were swept by the Jaguars and have a worse division record than the Titans, they'd lose a tiebreaker to both teams. So they need the Jaguars to lose two of their final three and the Titans to lose one in order to pass either team for a Wild Card spot.
If the Texans finish the season with an identical record to a non-division AFC team, the first four tie-breakers for the Wild Card are: 1) Head-to-head (if applicable), 2) Conference record, 3) Common games record (minimum of four), 4) Strength of victory.
The tiebreaker parameters change if three or more teams are tied for one spot. Instead of trying to post an explanation that would probably be more confusing then helpful, I'll direct you here to the full breakdown of tie-breaking procedures on NFL.com.
Help needed:All the Texans can control at this point is their next three games. Win those, and they'll be 9-7 with the first winning season in franchise history.
Would that be enough to make the playoffs? We'll have to wait and see. Here's what would have to happen to each team for the Texans to pass them for a playoff spot. All scenarios assume that the Texans win their last three games and finish 9-7.
Bengals: Lose all three remaining games, don't win AFC North title (End result: 9-7 record, Texans win tie-breaker via head-to-head)
Patriots:Lose two, including to the Texans in Week 17, and don't win AFC East title (End result: 9-7, Texans win tie-breaker via head-to-head)
Broncos: Lose all three (End result: 8-8); or: Lose two remaining AFC games (End result: 9-7 with a 6-6 conference record. It would come down to the strength of victory tie-breaker with the Texans in this scenario, and I have no idea who would win that)
Jaguars:Lose two (End result: 8-8)
Ravens:Lose two (End result: 8-8. Losing just one would make them 9-7, and their conference record at 7-5 would be better than the Texans'); or: Win out and win the AFC North (End result: Texans beat the Bengals, who would have to lose three games in this scenario, in head-to-head tiebreaker)
Dolphins:Lose one, to the Texans in Week 16 (End result: 9-7, Texans win head-to-head tie-breaker)
Jets:Lose two (End result: 8-8); or: Lose one and finish in a tie with the Dolphins at 9-7 (End result: Jets would be eliminated from the Wild Card tie-breaker because a 9-7 Dolphins team would be ranked higher in the division); or: Win out, win division (End result: Texans would win tie-breakers with both Dolphins and Patriots)
Steelers:Lose one (End result: 8-8)
Titans:Lose one (End result: 8-8)
That's quite a lot of possibilities and hypothetical scenarios, and I'm sure I didn't even cover them all. But no matter what happens with other teams this weekend, the Texans are assured of being alive heading into their Week 16 game if they win this weekend at St. Louis.