Wait, what? Could this really happen?
A few days ago, my intrepid colleague Chris Burke detailed a series of scenarios by which the Houston Texans could catapult themselves from contention for the first overall pick in the 2014 draft to a back door into the 2013 playoffs. Of course, the Texans violated the first rule of Burke's Law, which was to win out. They've now lost 11 in a row after their 27-20 Thursday night failure against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and at this point, Teddy Bridgewater might as well start putting the big red and blue bull on all his towels.
Meanwhile, there's a stranger possible reality afoot -- after an 0-8 start in which they were on pace to set all sorts of records for offensive futility, the aforementioned Jags are hot, hot, hot. They've won four of their last five games -- admittedly against sub-par competition like the Texans (twice), the Cleveland Browns and a 29-27 Week 10 squeaker over the Tennessee Titans that got this ball rolling. They're now 4-9, and the players have bought in fully to first-year head coach Gus Bradley's system. Momentum can be a force multiplier, even for teams that haven't made the playoffs or had a winning record since 2007.
How is this possible? As Mr. Burke did, I consulted ESPN's Playoff Machine and discovered that yes, the Jaguars could indeed sneak into the AFC's postseason picture under the following conditions:
The Jags have to win out. They have to do what the Texans could not, and that's not impossible. They've got home games left with Tennessee and Buffalo and a trip to Indianapolis to end their regular season. The way the AFC South-leading Colts have played of late, I'd say the Titans are the bigger threat here -- and the Jaguars have already beaten the Titans once. Factor in also that the Colts will likely have wrapped up the division and might rest a lot of starters as a result.
Oh, and the Titans have to lose another game outside of the proposed Jacksonville sweep.
The Dolphins, Ravens and Jets each have to lose at least three of their last four games. That shouldn't be a problem for the Jets, who are going through another one of their dramatic tailspins. The Ravens are a tougher play to lose that many and the Dolphins refuse to go away as a playoff contender, even after all the drama from the Richie Incognito scandal.
The Steelers, Raiders and Chargers each have to lose two of their last four games. The Chargers have lost four of their last five games despite Philip Rivers' excellence, which is what happens when you have the league's worst defense. The Steelers are hanging on tenterhooks right now -- nobody seems to know what kind of team they'll be week-to-week, especially if the NFL has to shoot Mike Tomlin into outer space for another sideline incident. The Raiders seem like the most dangerous obstruction here, despite the fact that they still have to face the Broncos and Chiefs again ... oh, wait. A .500 finish is actually probable there.
The Browns have to lose at least one more game. As Brandon Weeden may be their quarterback for at least one of those games, we'll go ahead and check that box.
Get it? Got it? Good. If all these dominoes fall, the Jags may very well travel back to Indianapolis for a wild-card game against the Colts, who look like the three-seed at this point.
Do you feel lucky? The Jaguars do ... at least, for the moment.
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