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How Houston Texans can make playoffs

The Texans have not won since early September, but they're still alive in the playoff race. The Texans have not won since early September, but they're still alive in the playoff race. (Eric May/AP)

No, that's not a joke headline. Despite being 2-10 with 10 consecutive losses, the Texans have yet to be eliminated from the AFC's playoff chase. (Which also means, as you might have figured out, that every AFC team still has at least a long-shot chance at postseason play).

But since the Texas have the most remote odds -- and since only one sub-.500 team (2011 Seattle) has ever qualified for the NFL playoffs -- it only felt right to investigate their road to glory, with a little help from ESPN.com's Playoff Machine.

Here's what has to happen for the Texans to claim a wild-card spot ...

Houston must win out: The obvious. A 4-0 finish would leave the Texans at 6-10 overall, the bare minimum record they'd need to reach the playoffs. They close at Jacksonville, at Indianapolis, vs. Denver and at Tennessee.

Baltimore and Miami must lose out: Essentially, what the Texans would be hoping for in this far-fetched scenario is a complete jumble of teams at 6-10, with Houston claiming the tiebreaker. Either the Ravens or Dolphins could eliminate Houston simply by winning one of their final four games.

Tennessee, Pittsburgh, San Diego and New York must finish 1-3 or worse: This is still possible with the schedules in front of these teams. Again, if any other team joins Denver, New England, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Kansas City with seven-plus victories, Houston would have no shot.

Oakland, Cleveland and Buffalo must finish 2-2 or worse: This trio of teams sits with matching 4-8 records at the moment.

The Texans' ridiculous hope for the playoffs: to have at least seven AFC teams finish tied at 6-10 -- themselves, plus the Steelers, Ravens, Dolphins, Browns, Jets, Chargers and the winner of a Week 15 game between the Bills and Jaguars. Oakland, Tennessee and the loser of that Buffalo-Jacksonville game could finish 6-10 or 5-11 without propping up another wild-card contender's record.

Should that happen, the Texans' could secure the AFC's second wild-card spot via a tremendously convoluted set of tiebreakers.

To keep their dream alive for another week, Houston needs to beat Jacksonville on Thursday night, then have these results occur on Sunday: Minnesota over Baltimore, New England over Cleveland, Oakland over the Jets, the Giants over San Diego and Pittsburgh over Miami.

So, the only question left: Do you believe in miracles?

[si-nfl-player id="bf9976eb8d224e429ce9b905bc7ad0ab"]

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