THE FRIDAY STOOTS 6-PACK
AFC playoff picture tightening up midseason
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.