AFC Wild Card Race: Houston vs. Miami

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AFC Wild Card Race: Houston vs. Miami
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With only two weeks remaining in the 2009 NFL season, many teams are still alive and contending for play-off births.

The Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins are just two of teams that are still alive and challenging for an AFC wild card spot. Unfortunately for these two teams, only one of them will enter the last week of the season with a shot at the playoffs as Houston heads to Miami for a week 16 battle for a chance at earning a wild card spot.

Both Houston and Miami currently sit on the outside looking in with records of 7-7 along with four other teams: Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, New York, and Tennessee.

The two teams that currently hold the wild card spots are Baltimore and Denver with records of 8-6. Week 16 will be pivotal for a number of teams in determining whether they will make the play-offs.

In my opinion, I believe that the Houston-Miami match-up could be huge for the play-off picture, as both teams need help if they want to earn a spot in the play-offs. Houston might be in the worst position of any 7-7 team since they have a poor divisional record at 1-5, which is the worst of any team with a 7-7 record.

Miami on the other hand, sits in a much better position than Houston does as they sit second out of the 7-7 teams due to their 4-2 divisional record.

The Dolphins need some help from other teams this week and they may get that help as Baltimore heads to Pittsburgh to take on their hated rivals and Denver travels to Philadelphia to take on the NFC East division leading Eagles. Both of these games could be pivotal for the Dolphins, assuming Miami can beat Houston.

The Dolphins suffered a heartbreaking loss last week against the Titans, ending Miami’s two-game winning streak. The Dolphins trailed Tennessee 24-9 in the fourth quarter but did not give up, as they scored a touchdown late and converted a two-point conversion that sent the game into overtime.

Miami won the toss and started with the ball but on third down, quarterback Chad Henne threw an interception at Miami’s own 40-yard line setting up Rob Bironas for a game ending 46-yard field goal. Miami turned the ball over four times compared to Tennessee’s two. The Dolphins wasted many scoring opportunities with turnovers in the red zone. If the Dolphins want to contend for the wild card in the AFC, they must hold on to the ball and keep their mistakes to a minimum.

The Texans still have a chance at the play-offs, but they must win their final two games and hope that other teams lose. Houston beat the St. Louis Rams in a tight game by a score of 16-13 in a game that the Texans needed in order to stay alive in the play-off hunt. This Houston-Miami match-up should be a close affair, but I believe that Miami can stop the high powered Houston offense and keep their playoff hopes alive.

If the Dolphins do beat the Texans this weekend, Miami needs some help as they need either Baltimore or Denver to falter, allowing the Dolphins to gain a game on either of them. Many factors would then come into place to determine the tiebreakers between the teams but Miami would be in a much better position than some of the other teams that are currently in the playoff mix.

Even with Miami’s loss last week to the Titans, they are still in fairly good position even though they are on the wrong side of the play-off picture. The New York Jets lost to the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 10-7 thanks to a Matt Ryan six-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez with only a few minutes remaining in the game. That was a stinging loss, as the Jets now have to face the undefeated Colts this week and then play AFC North division leading Cincinnati Bengals the last week of the season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars also suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 35-31. The Jaguars were driving late in the game but quarterback David Garrard threw an interception, which sealed the deal for the unbeaten Colts.

The Denver Broncos also suffered a loss at the hands of division rival Oakland by a score of 20-19. Oakland’s starting quarterback Charlie Frye got injured and was replaced by JaMarcus Russell, who led the Raiders down the field and finished off the Broncos with a touchdown pass to Chaz Schilens with just 35 seconds remaining. This was a tough loss to swallow for Denver as they now sit just one game ahead of six other teams in the final wild card spot.

The Current playoff picture looks like the following:

 

    1. Indianapolis 14-0
    2. San Diego 11-3
    3. New England 9-5
    4. Cincinnati 9-5
    5. Baltimore 8-6
    6. Denver 8-6
    7. Jacksonville 7-7
    8. Miami 7-7
    9. Pittsburgh 7-7
    10. New York 7-7
    11. Tennessee 7-7
    12. Houston 7-7

There are some very important games this week also between play-off teams:

San Diego @ Tennessee

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

Houston @ Miami

Jacksonville @ New England

New York Jets @ Indianapolis

Denver @ Philadelphia

Week 17 games look like the following:

Pittsburgh @ Miami

Baltimore @ Oakland

Tennessee @ Seattle

Cincinnati @ New York Jets

Kansas City @ Denver

New England @ Houston

Jacksonville @ Cleveland

My predictions for the final two wild card positions are Baltimore and Miami. I believe that Pittsburgh will beat the Ravens this week but Baltimore should beat Oakland and hold on to the fifth seed in the play-offs.

I also see Miami winning their final two games and earning the sixth and final play-off spot knocking out Denver. I believe that Denver will lose this week to Philadelphia and could possibly even lose to Kansas City the final week of the season. The next two weeks are going to be crazy in the AFC wild card race but I feel that Baltimore and Miami will rise to the top and earn the final two play-off spots.

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