Bill O'Brien gets a chance to put his December coaching chops to work.
Bill O'Brien gets a chance to put his December coaching chops to work.
Photo by Eric Sauseda

NFL Football, Week 12: Houston Texans Playoff Viewing Guide

So you have a refrigerator full of leftovers, and you read my Wednesday post about the renewed playoff hopes for the 4-6 Houston Texans. You have no Texans game to watch on Sunday, and you now need to know for whom to root on Sunday to best increase the Texans’ chances at an improbable playoff berth.

Good news! I have the information! I am here for you!

So pull out your Sunday NFL schedule and let’s go through these games, shall we? First, a refresher on the AFC standings:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-2 (AFC North champ)
2. New England Patriots, 8-2 (AFC East champ)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars, 7-3 (AFC South champ)
4. Kansas City Chiefs, 6-4 (AFC West champ)
5. Tennessee Titans, 6-4 (Wild Card 1)
6. Baltimore Ravens, 5-5 (Wild Card 2)
7. Buffalo Bills, 5-5
8. Miami Dolphins, 4-6
9. New York Jets, 4-6
10. Cincinnati Bengals, 4-6
11. Houston Texans, 4-6
12. Los Angeles Chargers, 4-6
13. Oakland Raiders, 4-6
14. Indianapolis Colts, 3-7
15. Denver Broncos, 3-7 0
16. Cleveland Browns, 0-10

Now, let’s start with a few general "rooting rules" that apply not just to this week, but every week for the remainder of the time the Texans are mathematically alive.

GENERAL RULE 1: Root for New England, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and Kansas City to wreck shop
Part of rooting for the Texans to pull off this miracle is realizing that there is no hope to win the AFC Southdivision. Yes, the Texans have a mathematical chance (they’re three games back with six to go), but look at the Jaguars’ schedule, and you’ll see that they are probably going to win 11 games. The wild card is the only route for the Texans to make the playoffs. So root like crazy for the four clear cut division leaders to do your dirty work, and in games where the Texans are not playing them, hope that they plunder all of these 5-5, 4-6, and 3-7 wannabes. Hell, strength of schedule is the fifth tie breaker, so root for them even when it seems like it doesn’t matter, since the Texans played (or will play) all four of these teams.

GENERAL RULE 2: Root for the NFC West teams in all of their non-division games (except against the AFC South)
Same reason as mentioned above — strength of schedule, baby! It could come down to that, ya never know!

GENERAL RULE 3: Always root for your gambling bets over anything else!
Yeah, you heard me… if you have a real feel on a game, and you think you can win money, then bet it with all of your heart and soul, even if it means diminishing the Texans’ chances to make the playoffs. It’s holiday shopping time, and we all need MONEY… AMERICAN CURRENCY… LETTUCE. Honestly, is Bill O’Brien going to pay for your kids’ Christmas gifts? I don’t think so! So if you got a gambling feel on a game, you go get that CABBAGE, my friend!!

Now onto this weekend’s games. I’ve included spreads so you know what the chances are of each of these outcomes happening, and the home team is in CAPS. (You’re welcome!) Here is what you should root for in each game this Sunday if you’re even a small believer in the Texans in this mosh pit of a playoff race….

1. Root for Cleveland (+9.5) over CINCNNATI
Tough one. The Browns are 0-10 on the season, and we need them to rise up. That’s the bad news. The good news is this is, by far, the least likely outcome that we need.

2. Root for INDIANAPOLIS (+3.5) over Tennessee
I gave the Colts as a pick in my Best Bets for this weekend. I’d rather they bring the Titans back to the pack a little and stay a game back of the Texans, than see the Titans go 7-4. The Titans’ losing brings the OTHER wild card spot into play.

3. Root for KANSAS CITY (-11.5) over Buffalo
The Chiefs have been awful of late, but the Bills are a mess. This would move another 5-5 into the sub .500 zone.

4. Root for NEW ENGLAND (-15.5) over Miami
Feeling pretty good about this one.

5. Root for Carolina (-4.5) over the NEW YORK JETS
The Jets have been a sneaky 4-6 team this season. This sounds weird to say, but at 4-6, Todd Bowles has done one of the best coaching jobs in the league. He has Josh McCown as his quarterback, and pretty much everyone thought the Jets were tanking the season. That said, GO PANTHERS!

6. Root for Denver (+5) over OAKLAND
Rooting for a team that employs Brock Osweiler (who's been benched, but still), it hurts, I know. Screw it, bet the Raiders and write this one off.

7. Root for the LOS ANGELES RAMS (-2.5) over New Orleans
Why even have a rooting interest in this NFC matchup? Because of GENERAL RULE number two above, of course!

8. Root for Jacksonville (-4) over ARIZONA
Again, one of my Best Bets that I gave out yesterday. I love the Jags here.

9. Root for PITTSBURGH (-14) over Green Bay
Big Ben at home against Brett Hundley. Done deal.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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