I sure have heard a lot of NFL types (locally and nationally) who have the Texans penciled in as a near lock for home field advantage in the AFC this year. Whoa now, lots of football left to be played. It’s not so much that I don’t think the Texans can hold up their end – but there are other factors here.
Right now, the presumed legitimate contenders for the top seed in the AFC are Houston, New England, and Denver. I agree with that.
Houston (6-1) still hosts Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Minnesota. They have to travel to Chicago, Detroit, Tennessee, New England, and Indianapolis. I’ll never assume a team is going to win every game they are supposed to win, and lose all the games they are supposed to lose. The Colts are hanging tough and presumably Andrew Luck will get better. New England and Chicago are clearly tough games. Detroit typically plays well at home on Thanksgiving. The Vikings are clearly not an easy out for anyone.
New England (5-3) hosts hosts Buffalo, Indianapolis, Houston, San Francisco, and Miami. They travel to the Jets, Dolphins, and Jaguars. The Patriots’ defense isn’t blowing anyone away, but their offense is stellar, and if you want to go ahead and write off Tom Brady and Bill Belichick – be my guest. They could absolutely find their stride and hit a big win streak. Will they? Probably not, but it’s SO not out of the question.
Denver (4-3) is the latest media darling as Peyton Manning is rounding into the Peyton of old. My feeling on Denver all along has been that Peyton would get stronger as the season went on. That combined with a strong defense and a couple of pass-rushers who still haven’t played their best football of 2012 makes for a scary team. But here’s the REALLY fun part. Look at this JOKE of a remaining schedule for the Broncos, this time in order: They are at the Bengals, at the Panthers, host the Chargers, at Chiefs, host Buccaneers, at Raiders, at Ravens, host Browns, host Chiefs.
I mean, that is RIDICULOUS. Plus, they finish with two EASY games at home.
Of course, the Texans have an extra game up on Denver via their head-to-head victory, and they have a chance to do the same when they visit New England on Monday night December 10. Clearly if the Texans win out, it’s all good – but that’s not going to happen, let’s not get crazy. The same logic applies to the other teams, and no way does New England run the table – but is it totally insane that Denver could? I don’t think so.
Worst case scenario, Denver wins out and finishes 13-3. That would mean Houston would have to lose at least three of their final nine games to finish 12-4 to lose the home field. It’s not at ALL difficult to pull three losses out of those remaining games. Of course, it’s a longshot that Denver wins out, so you do the math.
In conclusion – clearly I started this article with the intention of explaining that we should all hold our collective horses when it comes to talking about Houston locking up home field advantage. I was going to be your friendly neighborhood calming voice of reason.
But hey, I can’t. Denver’s going to run away with the AFC West, but they’re not going to win out… and this Texans team is not going to fall apart in the second half, assuming they stay healthy in key positions.
The path to home field is frighteningly wide open. Considering Denver’s schedule, I thought a closer look would make a Super Bowl path-through-Houston look a bit less likely… but um… it really doesn’t.
Wow. I love this season. Let’s cash it in.