THE FRIDAY STOOTS 6-PACK

AFC playoff picture tightening up midseason

Andrew Luck and the Colts have a big game this week. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Texans have a bye so a look at the rest of the NFL with an emphasis on the AFC is on deck. 

1. It seems likely the Texans will head out of the bye with a lead of two games in the AFC South. The Titans play host to the Patriots and the Jaguars play the Colts on Sunday. Indianapolis and Jacksonville's winner will be 4-5 and if Tennessee loses they will be 4-5. With an easier schedule than most and all their division games being at home it would seem the Texans would have to shoot themselves in the foot to not make the playoffs. 

2. The Chargers at 6-2 complicate the AFC playoff picture to a great degree. Either they or the Chiefs will win the AFC West and the other will end up seeded fifth and going on the road. That will be a tough out for the team who is seeded fourth in the AFC. Pittsburgh is on a roll right now and by virtue of their tie instead of a loss, they have a slight advantage over the Texans in the eventual final AFC standings. The likelihood the Texans play the loser of the AFC West seems fairly high at this point. The idea of hosting either the Chiefs or Chargers is exciting, but a daunting task should the standings shake out that way. 

3. Cincinnati enters their second half of the season in very interesting waters. They're healthy at running back again but A.J. Green is set to miss time. Tyler Boyd has been excellent this year but how will he handle the top receiver spot? Andy Dalton is playing much better than his recent seasons and the Bengals defense is playing good enough to keep them in the hunt. They are likely the favorites to be seeded sixth but they could easily be in a fight with the rest of the pack if they hit a rough patch. First up out of their bye is a showdown with the Saints and then a divisional match with the Ravens. 

4. Miami is 2-2 with Brock Osweiler starting and they need him to play better to stick in the AFC hunt. They still have both games against the Bills left but their schedule is pretty tough. If Osweiler falters and Ryan Tannehill isn't yet ready the Dolphins may be sunk. The Ravens, Titans, and winners in this weekend's Indianapolis and Jacksonville game will be nipping at their heels. They are all, of course, trying to catch the Bengals. 

5. The NFC picture lacks clarity compared to the AFC. Nine teams are .500 or better and Green Bay is 3-4-1 which could help them in a tiebreaker situation. Atlanta is streaking right now. The Seahawks have played better after a rough start. The defending Super Bowl champions loom in the middle of the pack in a division that isn't dominated by the current leader Washington. It's shaping up to be a fun race. 

6. It is likely the Texans will come out of their bye with just two of their remaining opponents owning winning records. Washington and the Eagles seem poised to be those teams. With the poor opponent records, the Texans likely won't be seen as legitimate contenders with only a couple of opportunities to impress pundits. If there was a playoff committee assembling the eight best NFL teams the would likely leave the Texans out. Thankfully there's not. Still plenty of time to get healthy and then hopefully show off the true potential of this Texans team. 

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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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