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Game Time: Texans' Playoff-Rooting Manifesto 2.0

"So you're saying there's a chance..."  -- Lloyd Christmas

A couple weeks ago, when the Texans were sitting at 5-6, I spent the better part of about four hours constructing an easy-to-follow guide for Texans fans to know whom to root for in games throughout the balance of the season in order to get our hometown team to the "pay window" for playoff season. I called it the Texans Playoff Rooting Manifesto, essentially a "Texans Rooting Guide for Dummies," a label which history tells us is well deserved if we believe the Texans are going to the playoffs.  

Unfortunately, that history was further strengthened when the Texans went out and lost to Jacksonville that weekend 23-18, seemingly rendering the opus that was the Playoff Rooting Manifesto useless. Sitting at 5-7, the Texans' playoff hopes were on life support.

Now at 6-7, miraculously....well maybe not miraculously, but let's just say that the Texans' playoff hopes have been upgraded to critical. Thanks to Peyton Manning slinging a downright Peyton-esque dart to Reggie Wayne for the winning touchdown, and thanks to David Garrard remembering that he is David Garrard (c'mon...shootout with Peyton Manning? Really?), the Jags now sit at 7-7.

With St. Louis, Miami, and New England on the board for the Texans still, it's gonna take some luck, but we're a mere day away from Festivus (at least at my buddy Hill's house, that's true -- Festivus Party tomorrow!), and I think it's time the Texans finally benefit from a Festivus MIRACLE!! []

So I'm dusting it off, one last time....Texans Playoff Rooting Manifesto 2.0. As Coach Holtz, would say, "LESH GO!!"  (As with version 1.0, all records in parentheses are the overall record, division record, and conference record.)  

When we last reviewed the Manifesto, we laid out two seemingly immutable truths. They were:

1. It will take an act of Congress for the four division winners not to be New England (AFC East), Cincinnati (AFC North), Indianapolis (AFC South), and San Diego (AFC West).
This one is still mostly true. The only one now in doubt is the AFC East because the Patriots went out the weekend of Manifesto 1.0 and lost to the Dolphins. At the end of the day, since the Texans play both the Dolphins and the Patriots between now and the end of the season, and the Texans need to win both games to go 9-7, the best thing might be for the Jets to sneak in and win the AFC East and the Texans to not have to deal with them in a potential tiebreaker, since they would lose it based on the head-to-head loss in Week 1 (further proof that September games are as important as December games). The Jets have a tough slate the rest of the way (Atlanta, @ Indy, Cincy), but you never know.

Put it this way, since the Texans actually play two of the AFC East potential winners the rest of the way, the first "immutable" truth may as well still be true.  

Looking at the second one...

2. The AFC wild card picture is a virtual clusterfreak (keeping it clean today for all of you little Texamaniacs out there...).
Still VERY much true.  Today, here's how the contestants in the AFC Wild Card Beauty Contest look

Denver (8-5, 3-1, 6-4)
Miami (7-6, 4-2, 5-4)
Baltimore (7-6, 3-2, 6-4)
NY Jets (7-6, 2-4, 5-5)
Jacksonville (7-7, 3-3, 6-4)
Tennessee (6-7, 2-4, 3-7)
Pittsburgh (6-7, 1-4, 4-6)
HOUSTON (6-7, 1-5, 4-6)

....and just in case you're wondering, the Patriots (8-5, 3-2, 5-4) are now relevant in this whole "wild card" conversation because they could very well lose a couple games, but understand the Texans NEED them to beat the Jags next week. This is not negotiable. You'll know why in a second.

So there you go. Same cast of characters in varying revised states of repair and disrepair.  Now let's look at what needs to happen...

1. ROOT FOR THE TEXANS to win all of their games.
Like last time....duh.

2. ROOT AGAINST JACKSONVILLE regardless of who they're playing.
Same as last time. See? So far this is easy. A refresher as to why this is so important. It's pretty simple. The Jags own every tiebreaker over the Texans -- head to head (2-0), division record (not even close), and conference record (same thing).

This is a bigger killer than you'd think when there are potentially so many teams that could wind up at 9-7 for that last spot because the first process in the tiebreaker when there are three or more teams tied for the wild card is to whittle it down by division so that there is one potential remaining team from each division. In other words, if the wild card is a 9-7 mess of, say, four teams and two of them are the Texans and Jags, it doesn't matter how the Texans stack up against the other teams; they need to be beat the Jags in a tiebreaker just to stay in the consideration process.

If none of that makes sense, then just please trust me, the more Jacksonville loses, the better it is for the Texans. Jacksonville's schedule the rest of the way:

Week 16:  @ New England
Week 17:  @ Cleveland

Gotta have it next week, Tom Brady....gotta have it.

3. ROOT AGAINST THE BRONCOS...
....but don't get your hopes up.  They have two home games left against Oakland and Kansas City sandwiched around a trip to Philly. If Jay Cutler were still somehow involved and wearing Bronco gear, I'd feel a little better about this, but for now assume that at worst Denver goes 9-7 and holds tiebreakers over the Texans. Focus in on the Texans' 7-6 and 6-7 mediocre brethren. Like....

4. ROOT AGAINST THE TITANS.
Why? Because, like in version 1.0, they have the same record as the Texans. Also, root against them because we hate them. With the fire and passion of a thousand white hot suns, we hate them.

In version 1.0, I called "best case Titans finish 8-8." Now they're 6-7 with the following schedule:

Week 15: vs Miami
Week 16: vs San Diego
Week 17: at Seattle

Screw it, I'm going with 7-9. Suck it, Fisher!

5. ROOT A LITTLE EXTRA HARD AGAINST THE NEW YORK JETS, but....
Last time in version 1.0, I said the following:

Honestly, I think the wheels have started to come off for Rex Ryan's bunch. Kris Jenkins, their monstrous nose tackle and cornerstone of their 3-4 defense, is out for the season, and the league seems to have caught up to rookie QB Mark Sanchez.

Naturally, they went out and won their next two games, albeit against Buffalo and Tampa Bay.

That said, I did concede the following in version 1.0:

The Jets will be favored in the first three of those games (Week 13 thru 15), and likely will be facing an Indianapolis team that has sewn up home field throughout the playoffs. Hell, in Week 17 Cincinnati may have sewn up the OTHER first-round bye. In short, the Jets schedule is easier than it looks; now they may have run out of gas, which means it won't matter, but if they regroup, they're a darkhorse.

So on the one hand, I'm an idiot, but on the other hand, I'm really smart. I learned this from Richard Justice -- just take both sides of an argument and you can never be wrong.

Anyway, back to the Jets -- schedule looks like this: 

Week 15: vs Atlanta
Week 16: @ Indianapolis
Week 17: vs Cincinnati

The Jets should beat Atlanta, and from there it's really a matter of how hard Indy and Cincy are trying, because both may have sewn up (well, Indy HAS sewn up) their playoff seeding.  

Let's all agree to re-evaluate the Jets after this weekend. If they lose to Atlanta, then like the Texans, they'll be 7-7 and we just need Indy or Cincy to beat them. If they win this weekend, we may want them to go on and win the AFC East since the Texans will have beaten Miami and the Pats head-to-head if they go 9-7, and the Texans lost to the Jets in Week 1.   

And if you're still with me after that, then you are a true diehard football fan.

6. BALTIMORE and PITTSBURGH REQUIRE VERY SPECIFIC ROOTING EVENTS.  LEARN THESE....
Baltimore (7-6, 3-2, 6-4) has become quite the pain in the ass in these little scenarios. Their schedule looks like this:

Week 15: Chicago
Week 16: @ Pittsburgh
Week 17: @ Oakland

Pittsburgh is in about the same shape as the Texans -- 6-7 overall, bad division record, bad conference record. Their schedule looks like this:

Week 15: Green Bay
Week 16: Baltimore
Week 17: @ Miami

Chicago could do everyone a huge favor by beating Baltimore this weekend, but since Jay Cutler is prominently involved, I'm going to assume Baltimore wins by four touchdowns. (This is shaping up like another "let's evaluate next week" scenario;  I smell another release of the Manifesto coming on, kind of like when the iPhone tells you that an application has an upgrade. Same exact thing. In fact, I should make this whole thing an iPhone app. If I were smart, I would....but alas....)

Okay, back to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Let's play the percentages and say Baltimore wins and Pittsburgh loses to Green Bay. Now you're looking at the Texans needing a Steeler team with nothing to play for, AND an Oakland team with some dude named Frye at quarterback, needing to beat the Ravens for the Texans to get into the playoffs.

Let's just say that if Baltimore beats Chicago this weekend, it wouldn't be the worst thing for the Steelers to beat Green Bay so they still have something to play for next week versus Baltimore. Then let Miami come in and knock the Steelers out in Week 17, and pray to God that JaMarcus Russell doesn't have to see the field against the Ravens in Week 17. Which brings me to.....

7. LET MIAMI DO WHATVER THEY WANT IN GAMES OTHER THAN THE TEXANS.
If the Texans beat the Dolphins, then the best the Dolphins can go is 9-7 and the Texans will have the tiebreaker head to head. So Dolphins, go ahead and beat the Titans in Week 15 and the Steelers in Week 17. We are rooting for you. But go out and get shitfaced on December 26 and come in hungover for the Texans game, please. Pretty please?

So once again, here is the abridged version of the TEXANS PLAYOFF ROOTING MANIFESTO, VERSION 2.0:

DIVISION WINNERS
INDIANAPOLIS (14-0, 6-0, 10-0) -- ROOT FOR (except maybe Week 16 against the Jets. To be determined.)
SAN DIEGO (10-3, 5-1, 7-3) -- INDIFFERENT
CINCINNATI (9-4, 6-0, 6-3) -- INDIFFERENT
NEW ENGLAND (8-5, 3-2, 5-4) -- ROOT AGAINST Weeks 15 and 17 (Bills and Texans), ROOT FOR Week 16 (Jags)

WILD CARD CONTENDERS
DENVER
(8-5, 3-1, 6-4) -- ROOT AGAINST (but don't get your hopes up)
BALTIMORE (7-6, 3-2, 6-4) -- ROOT AGAINST...and pray
MIAMI (7-6, 4-2, 5-4) -- ROOT AGAINST in Week 16, ROOT FOR in Weeks 15 and 17
NY JETS (7-6, 2-4, 5-5) -- ROOT AGAINST (with a caveat that we may start rooting for them to win out next week if they beat Atlanta)
JACKSONVILLE (7-7, 3-3, 6-4) -- ROOT AGAINST (with every fiber of your being)
PITTSBURGH (6-7, 1-4, 4-6) -- INDIFFERENT Week 15 (Green Bay), ROOT FOR Week 16 (Baltimore), ROOT AGAINST Week 17 (Miami)....Pittsburgh is very high maintenance in this whole thing....
TENNESSEE (6-7, 2-4, 3-7) -- ROOT AGAINST (and spit at a Titans fan if you see them on the street)

My prediction on how all of this ends up?

1. Indianapolis 16-0
2. San Diego 12-4
3. Cincinnati 11-5
4. New England 10-6
5. Denver 10-6
6. HOUSTON 9-7

Again, typing 2,000 words will make one very biased in his prediction. Just know this.

THIS WEEKEND'S BEST BETS
I was doing pretty good this past weekend...and then Jamarcus Russell and Eli Manning got involved. I could write 1,000 words on why Eli Manning is a turd. In fact, I might do that next week. Here's how last week went down....

Army +14 vs Navy (Navy 17-3, PUUUSHHH!!)
Jets/Bucs under 37 (Jets 23-6, WINNER!)
Ravens -13.5 vs Lions (Ravens 48-3, WINNER AGAIN!)
Patriots -13.5 vs Panthers (Pats 20-10, DAMMIT, LOSER!)
Redskins/Raiders under 37.5 (Redskins 34-13, HATE THESE TEAMS!!)
Giants PK vs Eagles (Eagles 45-38, F-YOU, ELI!!)

Record Last Week: 2-3-1
Record on Hair Balls: 16-24-2

Time for the last minute Christmas shopping money push -- go opposite of the following picks:

Central Florida +2.5 vs Rutgers
Cowboys/Saints over 53.5
Lions +12.5 vs Cardinals
Browns/Chiefs over 37
Raiders +14 vs Broncos
Eagles -7.5 vs 49ers

Have a great weekend everyone!

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 PM weekdays on the "Sean & John Show", and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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