Texans coach Gary Kubiak's team can make the playoffs with a win and losses from two other teams in Week 17.
A week ago, the Texans trailed seven teams in the AFC Wild Card standings. Thanks to their 27-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins and a slew of favorable results from around the league, they now trail only three.
At 8-7 for the first time in team history, the Texans will be alive in the playoff race in their season finale – also a franchise first. They've played in Week 17 games with playoff implications before, but those playoff implications have always been for the other team.
Now, the Texans can give themselves a chance to make their first trip to the postseason if they beat the 10-5 New England Patriots on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. Tom Brady's bunch already has clinched the AFC East title, but they're still competing for the AFC's No. 3 seed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
If the Texans beat the Patriots, they'll need two out of three teams among the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos to lose. New York hosts Cincinnati (10-5), the AFC North champs. Baltimore plays at Oakland (5-10). Denver is at home against Kansas City (3-12).
If that scenario sounds far-fetched, consider what happened over the past weekend. Almost every result involving Wild Card hopefuls in Week 16 helped the Texans' playoff chances.
Aside from the Texans beating Miami, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the Patriots and the Tennessee Titans lost to the San Diego Chargers. Both AFC South teams fell behind the Texans with a 7-8 record.
The Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Broncos lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams gave the Texans a chance to catch them in the final week of the season.
The only non-favorable result was the Jets' 29-15 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Indy coach Jim Caldwell, whose team already had wrapped up the AFC's No. 1 seed, decided to pull most of his starters with a 15-10 lead in the third quarter.
Now, it's up to the Texans to take care of business in Week 17 – and then, perhaps, engage in some good old-fashioned scoreboard-watching.
The Texans and Patriots kick off at noon. Every other game of interest to Houston kicks off later in the day – Ravens-Raiders and Chiefs-Broncos at 3:15 p.m. CT, and Bengals-Jets in primetime at 7:30 p.m. CT.
The Patriots and Bengals could affect Sunday's games by, like the Colts, pulling starters early or resting them completely. What both teams do will depend on how much Bill Belichick and Marvin Lewis value their respective teams having the No. 3 vs. the No. 4 seed.
Texans fans pulling for the Ravens to lose at Oakland should be encouraged by the fact that the Raiders have won home games this season against two division champions, the Eagles and Bengals. The Raiders also have won at Pittsburgh and Denver in December, but they're coming off of a 23-9 road loss to the lowly Cleveland Browns.
The Broncos' opponent, Kansas City, has the worst record in the AFC. The Broncos have lost three consecutive games and seven of their last nine, but they beat the Chiefs 44-10 at Kansas City in Week 13.