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How Do Texans Fit In to the NFL Playoff Picture After Week 12?

Jeffery RoyContributor IIINovember 26, 2012

How Do Texans Fit In to the NFL Playoff Picture After Week 12?

1 of 8

    Coming out of Week 12, Houston sits atop the AFC standings with all the record-based indicators pointed in their direction. 

    They own the best mark in the conference at 10-1. With their victories over 8-2 Baltimore and 7-3 Denver already in the books, they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over closest competitors. 

    What happens over the final five weeks of the season will determine which teams get a week off and which ones meet in the first round of the playoffs. Some time to recuperate after a brutal 16-game schedule is certainly tempting. 

    Each of the contenders for the postseason has their own road to follow. What awaits them at the end will depend on how they navigate its twists and turns. Shall we see what awaits them?

     

    Note: All statistics listed are through Week 11 of 2012 season.

Baltimore Ravens (9-2)

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    Standout Stats

     

     

     

    Remaining Schedule

    Week 13

    home

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    (6-5)

    Week 14

    road

    Washington Redskins

    (5-6)

    Week 15

    home

    Denver Broncos

    (8-3)

    Week 16

    home

    New York Giants

    (7-4)

    Week 17

    road

    Cincinnati Bengals

    (6-5)

    Opponents winning percentage: 58.1% (32-23) 

     

    Playoff Outlook

    Four of the five games left are against winning teams, and the one loser (Washington) cannot be taken lightly. 

    The defense has given up over 400 yards to both Houston and Oakland. The losses of Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb, and now CB Jimmy Smith are starting to catch up with them. 

    The Ravens gained a measly 200 yards in the win over the Steelers. Joe Flacco has been up and down the entire year, and Ray Rice has rushed for only 173 yards over his last four games. Their offensive identity has been in question all season and does not look to work itself out over a difficult closing stretch.

     

    Final Record: 12-4 (Losses to Broncos, Giants) 

New England Patriots (8-3)

3 of 8

    Standout Stats

     

     

    Remaining Schedule

    Week 13

    road

    Miami Dolphins

    (5-6)

    Week 14

    home

    Houston Texans

    (10-1)

    Week 15

    home

    San Francisco 49ers

    (8-2-1)

    Week 16

    road

    Jacksonville Jaguars

    (2-9)

    Week 17

    home

    Miami Dolphins

    (5-6)

    Opponents' winning percentage: 55.5% (30-24)

     

    Playoff Outlook

    Only two teams with winning records on tap, and both are formidable. 

    While the Texans have persevered through a slew of injuries to their defense, all that attrition will eventually take its toll. On the other hand, San Francisco is the hardest team to score on and allows the lowest average yards per play

    The Patriots look a lot like the 2009 New Orleans Saints. Their offense is unstoppable, and their turnover differential compensates for an elastic defense. Ranked 15th in points allowed and 27th in yardage allowed, the opposition is able to march up and down the field and even score sometimes. 

    But they will convert every takeaway into points and turn the scoreboard into their personal pinball machine. Rob Gronkowski will be missed for 4-6 weeks, but Aaron Hernandez and a couple of other tight ends can step right in.

     

    Final Record: 12-4 (Loss to Texans) 


Denver Broncos (8-3)

4 of 8

    Standout Stats

     

     

     

    Remaining Schedule

    Week 13

    home

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    (6-5)

    Week 14

    road

    Oakland Raiders

    (3-8)

    Week 15

    road

    Baltimore Ravens

    (9-2)

    Week 16

    home

    Cleveland Browns

    (2-9)

    Week 17

    home

    Kansas City Chiefs

    (1-10)

    Opponents' winning percentage: 38.1% (21-34)

     

    Playoff Outlook

    The Broncos have the easiest road of all the contenders. Only their trip to Baltimore threatens to mar their march to the postseason. 

    This late in the season, every team is concerned about their injury report. Top RB Willis McGahee is gone for the year, along with MLB Joe Mays. 

    The question of whether Knowshon Moreno can play to the standard of his early Broncos career needs to be answered. Along with the ability of graying veteran Keith Brookings to perform like he is 27 instead of the 37 listed on his drivers license. 

    The defense in particular is not consistent in every respect. No one has more sacks than the 35 they have registered, but they have a negative turnover differential (-3). Sacks help, but turnovers matter most of all. 

    Peyton Manning could be the antidote now that he has transformed the offense with his ageless talent. He took the Colts to a championship with Joseph Addai as the leading rusher and a defense ranked in the bottom third of the league. He could be painting another masterpiece to match that one.

     

    Final Record: 13-3 (No Losses)

Indianapolis Colts (7-4)

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    Standout Stats

     

     

     

    Remaining Schedule

    Week 13

    road

    Detroit Lions

    (4-7)

    Week 14

    home

    Tennessee Titans

    (4-7)

    Week 15

    road

    Houston Texans

    (10-1)

    Week 16

    road

    Kansas City Chiefs

    (1-10)

    Week 17

    home

    Houston Texans

    (10-1)

    Opponents winning percentage: 43.1% (19-26)

     

    Playoff Outlook

    If going by statistics, the Colts are winning strictly by Luck. 

    Well, even that is not the whole truth. Andrew Luck has a poor passer rating (77.2) and as many touchdowns as interceptions (12 each). They have also been outscored by 50 points

    A team can get to a 7-4 record when they beat the teams they are supposed to beat. Only two of their victories are against squads with winning records. Three of their four losses have been by 20 or more points, contributing to their negative scoring gap. 

    The inspiration of Head Coach Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with leukemia in late September, is impossible to discount. Since that point, Indianapolis is 6-2. Team-building effort such as half the team shaving their heads can go a long way. 

    But they go only so far. The defense is their biggest liability, giving up significant yardage through the air and on the ground. The best way to compensate for that is to generate turnovers. However, they rank 30th in turnover differential at minus-13. 

    With such a weak slate of teams to close out the year, it may take until the postseason to catch up with them. The wheels will come off their wagon before too long.

     

    Final Record 10-6 (Losses to Lions, Texans)



Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

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    Standout Stats

     

     

     

     

    Remaining Schedule

    Week 13

    road

    Baltimore Ravens

    (9-2)

    Week 14

    home

    San Diego Chargers

    (4-6)

    Week 15

    road

    Dallas Cowboys

    (5-6)

    Week 16

    home

    Cincinnati Bengals

    (6-5)

    Week 17

    home

    Cleveland Browns

    (2-9)

    Opponents winning percentage: 47.2% (26-29)

     

    Playoff Outlook

    According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, “Ben Roethlisberger just may be ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers' rematch with the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday.” 

    Apparently Big Ben will return a week too late. 

    The Steelers have never made the playoffs when they have lost a game to Cleveland. On Sunday of Week 12, they presented the Browns with their third win of the season courtesy of eight Pittsburgh turnovers

    Mathematically speaking, they are still alive. But their defense can only keep them in the hunt for so long. They are getting by without a lot of sacks, interceptions, or fumble recoveries. In addition, their inspirational leader Troy Polumalu has only suited up for two games. 

    The majority of the offense this season has been provided by Big Ben. The running game that has defined Steelers football for decades has scored just five TDs. 

    The injury that sidelined Roethlisberger could have ended his life and not just his career. But duty calls, and while his character has been questioned his courage has not.   

    If their quarterback cannot deliver some points, they may be left to just play out the string. Even if the postseason is in their future, their prospects are likely “one and done.”

     

    Final Record: 8-8 ( Losses to Ravens, Cowboys, Bengals)

Cincinnati Bengals (6-5)

7 of 8

    Standout Stats

     

     

    Remaining Schedule

    Week 13

    road

    San Diego Chargers

    (4-7)

    Week 14

    home

    Dallas Cowboys

    (5-6)

    Week 15

    road

    Philadelphia Eagles*

    (3-7)

    Week 16

    road

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    (6-5)

    Week 17

    home

    Baltimore Ravens

    (9-2)

    Opponents winning record: 50.0% (27-27)

    *Philadelphia plays Monday Night 11/26

     

    Playoff Outlook

    Three of their last five may be on the road, but the Bengals seem to like it there. They are 3-2 away from Paul Brown Stadium and will face two losing teams (Chargers and Eagles) and one in decline (Steelers) in their travels. 

    Cincinnati is not really exceptional in any aspect of the game, nor are they particularly bad at anything. If that makes them the definition of mediocre, it has also left them in the mix for a wild-card spot. 

    They have a handful of stars on offense, along with an above-average offensive line. Their largely no-name defense contains some talent nonetheless. The more astute NFL fans will know the names of DT Geno Atkins, CB Leon Hall, and veteran DBs Terence Newman and Nate Clements. 

    Those same fans will not place any faith in a team that has disappointed on such a regular basis. Every good year is inevitably followed by poor one. If this season turns out with a better than .500 record, it will be the first time since 1976 they have had back-to-back winning seasons. 

    That alone could be cause for celebration.

     

    Final Record 9-7 (Losses to Ravens, Cowboys)


Houston Texans (10-1)

8 of 8

    Standout Stats

     

     

     

    Remaining Schedule

    Week 13

    road

    Tennessee Titans

    (4-7)

    Week 14

    road

    New England Patriots

    (8-3)

    Week 15

    home

    Indianapolis Colts

    (7-4)

    Week 16

    home

    Minnesota Vikings

    (6-5)

    Week 17

    road

    Indianapolis Colts

    (7-4)

    Opponents winning percentage:  56.8% (25-19)

     

    Playoff Outlook

    The Texans moved closer clinching a playoff berth after getting out of Motor City alive. No thanks to Ndamukong Suh, who tried to turn QB Matt Schaub from a bull into a steer with one swift kick

    Looking down the road, where they will be playing three of their last five games, Houston seems situated to avoid having to play in the first week of the playoffs. If they just win two more games, a 12-4 record will give them some time to heal up. 

    If one of their losses is to the Patriots and each team ends up with the same record, New England would win home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If all four division winners in the AFC end up at 12-4, which is entirely possible, the Texans will get the bye week by virtue of the Ravens/Broncos tiebreaker. 

    If home field advantage is the Holy Grail of the postseason, the key to achieving it is simple. Houston can only lose one game down the stretch, and it does not matter which team beats them. 

    Their 14-2 record would eliminate all other possibilities, including Baltimore winning out. And the road to the New Orleans and Super Bowl XLVII would run through Reliant Stadium. 

    That would mean beating a hot Patriots team. If the Texans drop that one, they would have to defeat the Colts twice. And accomplish a franchise first by beating them in Indianapolis. 

    Numbers aside, the must-have game is New England. The psychological boost would be as great as the notch in the win column. The Texans have been surviving on a combination of will and luck.

    Assuming the Titans game goes Houston’s way, a victory the next week would set the stage for a finale as remarkable as the season itself. 

    Funny thing is, five of the last seven Super Bowl champions have not had the luxury of a bye week before their first playoff game. So be careful what your wish for, Texans fans, the postseason comes with no guarantees.

     

    Final Record 14-2 (Loss to Colts in Indianapolis)

     

     

     


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