Clinching the AFC South: The Formula for the Houston Texans


I keep hearing the same question over and over, “What do the Houston Texans have to do in order to clinch the AFC South?”. The answer is fairly simple, they need to win games. However, if they begin to lose games then it becomes a little more complicated. Let us take a look at the scenario for the remainder of the season.

Everybody who is somebody, when it comes to football, knows that the Tennessee Titans are chasing down the Texans for the AFC South title. As it stands right now the Texans are 9-3 while the Titans are 7-5, meaning that there is a two game differential between the two teams. There are four games remaining in the regular season, this means that the Texans could win one of their last four games and still clinch the AFC South but more about that in a minute.

There are a few different factors that must be taken into consideration when it comes to winning a division: cumulative record for the season, head-to-head records against division opponents, overall division record, and common game record.

Cumulative Season Record

The cumulative season record is simply the total number of wins and losses that a team has. If the Texans win only one more game this season they will finish the season with a 10-6 record. That means that the Titans would have to win three of their remaining four games just to tie the Texans’ record. However, if the Texans can win two of their final four games then they will clinch the AFC South despite whatever the Titans may accomplish over those same four games.

Assuming that the Texans and Titans both finished with a 10-6 record then the other three factors would come into play.

Head-to-head Records Against Division Opponents (Titans)

In the AFC South the Texans are a perfect 4-0. They have beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars twice, the Titans once, and the Indianapolis Colts once. The most important game in this category is the win over the Titans. If the Texans and Titans were to finish with identical season records then the next factor would take into consideration the head-to-head record between these two teams.

If the Texans finished 10-6 then there are two possible scenarios for the head-to-head record. The Texans could lose to the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, and Indianapolis Colts but beat the Titans. This would mean that the Texans would finish with a 2-0 head-to-head record against the Titans and would clinch the division. Conversely, the Texans could defeat one of the other teams and lose to the Titans leaving the two teams with a 1-1 head-to-head record.

As you can see, this is where things begin to get really interesting…

Overall Division Record

As I stated previously, the Texans are currently 4-0 in their division, the Titans are 1-2. That means that the best division record that the Titans can finish with is 4-2. However, this also means that the Titans would have to defeat the Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Texans in the next four weeks.

If the Titans could win-out against the AFC South (defeating the Texans in week 17) then they would also need the Texans to have lost against the Colts in week 16. However, if the Texans defeat the Colts, in Indianapolis, they would clinch the division.

Losing to Indianapolis and Tennessee, in combination with one other defeat, would give the Texans and Titans a 4-2 record in the division.

So now here we are – worst case scenario. The Texans won only 1 game out of their final four (finishing 10-6), one of their last three losses came against the Titans (1-1 head-to-head record), and they also lost against the Colts while the Titans won out in the AFC South (both teams with a 4-2 division record)…what now?

Common Game Record

The final category that would be considered is the common game record. That is, the records of both the Texans and Titans against identical opponents during this season.

Here are the teams that both the Titans and Texans have played as well as each game’s outcome:

Jacksonville:     Texans (2-0)      Titans (1-0)

Baltimore:         Texans (0-1)       Titans (1-0)

Cleveland:          Texans (1-0)       Titans (1-0)

Pittsburgh:        Texans (1-0)       Titans (0-1)

Indianapolis:     Texans (1-0)       Titans (1-0)

Cincinnati:        Texans (TBD)     Titans (0-1)

Carolina:           Texans (TBD)      Titans (1-0)

Atlanta:             Texans (1-0)        Titans (0-1)

Tampa Bay:      Texans (1-0)         Titans (1-0)

New Orleans:    Texans (0-1)        Titans (TBD)

Texans/Titans   Texans (1-0)       Titans (0-1)

Overall:              Texans (8-2)       Titans (6-4)

The Texans have the remaining common games yet to play: Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers. The Titans have yet to face the Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts. Assuming the Texas manage only 1 more win over their last four games they would finish with a 9-5 common game record. That means that the Titans would have to win three of their last four games just to tie the Texans common game record.

So, all-in-all, here is what it would take for the Texans to NOT clinch the division. They can only win one more game at most, they would have to have one of their last three losses against the Tennessee Titans, they would also have to lose against the Indianapolis Colts, and the Titans would have to win all four of their final games for the season.

Otherwise, a Texans win and Titans loss would clinch the division for the Texans. A Texans loss next week with a win over the Colts and either the Jaguars or Titans clinches the division for the Texans. Losing against Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville but defeating the Titans clinches the division for the Texans. Winning against any two opponents over the next four games clinches the division for the Texans…

I think you get the point, the Texans currently have about a 99% chance of clinching the AFC South!

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