Which franchise can deny the Houston Texans a playoff berth?

Denver Broncos v Houston Texans
Denver Broncos v Houston Texans / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

The NFL playoffs are right around the corner. Franchises are working diligently to secure a spot in conference standings. Blemishes from earlier in the season are beginning to take a toll on teams with playoff aspirations. Losses to divisional foes raise the importance of finishing the season strong. DeMeco Ryans expects to lead his unit to a promising finish. His group must defeat AFC opponents to strengthen their post-season odds.

Which team will give the Houston Texans the most trouble at the end of the season?

The Houston Texans are strong playoff contenders

An outstanding effort from their rookie quarterback has taken the Houston Texans to the next level. They have a winning record (7-5) and a chance to clinch the playoffs for the first time in four years. It's an exciting time for fans in Texas, but there is more work to do. C.J. Stroud and his teammates are not guaranteed an extended season yet. They rank eighth in conference standings - one spot shy of post-season consideration. Loses to the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, and Jacksonville Jaguars did not seem significant at the moment but are costing the Texans in the final weeks of competition.

Hiccups throughout the campaign have not hindered Houston's progress. They are still a dangerous team with a lot to prove. Bobby Slowik's offense is among the league's top ten (9) heading into Week 14. They rank ninth in passing grade (81.4) and third in receiving rating (82.1). Nico Collins has become his quarterback's favorite target. He's earned 991 receiving yards (10th) and six touchdowns (12th) so far this season. Devin Singletary and Dameon Pierce are responsible for jumpstarting Houston's ground attack. They've struggled during the campaign - ranking 23rd in run grading (71.8).

Who is the Houston Texans' toughest opponent to close the season?

Excuses will not help DeMeco Ryans' unit accomplish its goal. They have five games remaining on the NFL schedule. More than half are against conference foes. Consecutive poor performances will drop the Texans' win percentage against AFC opponents. It will ruin Houston's chances of extending their season - a bleak end to a noteworthy campaign.

Rallying enough victories will not become an issue for C.J. Stroud and the company. They are a determined group with aspirations of succeeding. A Week 14 battle against the New York Jets will be the easiest game of the stretch. Robert Saleh's unit ranks 31st in offense (56.7) and 30th in points scored (171). They have a stout defense (5th), but it will not be enough to disrupt Houston's winning streak.

A two-game road trip will end when the Texans travel to Nissan Stadium in Week 15. It is the first of two matchups between the AFC South rivals. Wins will help the Texans elevate in conference standings right in time for the post-season. The Tennessee Titans have a low chance of clinching the playoff, but they are still hungry to improve their record (4-8).

Defeating a division rival is hard for any NFL franchise. It becomes more challenging when playoff implications are also on the line. The Houston Texans must win as many games as possible to earn a better position in the standings. The Cleveland Browns are a noteworthy opponent, but the Titans are more of a challenge. A redemption game against the Colts in Week 18 will give DeMeco Ryans' group a chance to secure their post-season ticket. If they lose twice to the Titans, the games after Week 17 are irrelevant.

All statistics courtesy of pff.com.