Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE
The Houston Texans are in the driver's seat for the top spot in the AFC. Along with the conference's best record, the AFC South's top dog also holds tiebreakers over other elite teams in the conference.
Wins over the Denver Broncos (6-3) and Baltimore Ravens (7-2) essentially give the Texans an extra game up on these teams.
Houston's biggest threat for the top seed in the AFC is the New England Patriots (6-3). The Patriots' remaining schedule is soft enough for them to make a serious push in the second half of the season. New England is playing better football than it did to start the season and head coach Bill Belichick does his best coaching this time of year.
The head-to-head showdown between the Patriots and Texans Week 14 on Monday Night Football could ultimately decide the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Here's how each team's schedule looks for the rest of the season:
Houston Texans: Jacksonville Jaguars, at Detroit Lions, at Tennessee Titans, at New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, at Indianapolis Colts
New England Patriots: Indianapolis Colts, at New York Jets, at Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, at Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins
Too much can be made of schedules this late in the year given how team's change throughout the season. Just look at how much the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals' fates have dramatically changed in half of a season.
More importantly, Houston's comfortable two game lead over New England makes it likely the Texans will have home-field advantage over the rest of the AFC throughout the playoffs. Barring serious injuries, the Texans should finish as the No. 1 seed.
Texans' Odds: Probable