Texans playoff picture: How Houston can clinch AFC South, wild-card spot in Week 18

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CJ Stroud
(Getty Images)

The Texans entered DeMeco Ryans' first season as head coach with low expectations, but the team has vastly exceeded them.

Ryans has done an excellent job helping transform Houston into a playoff contender. His work on defense has been notable, but his empowerment of first-time offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and the development of rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud have been among his best achievements.

Stroud is widely expected to be the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year after leading Houston to an 8-6 record in his 14 starts with 3,844 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. He has been every bit as good as those numbers indicate and has done well to elevate playmakers like Nico Collins and Tank Dell around him.

Thanks in part to Stroud's success, Houston is sitting at 9-7 on the year. It marks the team's first winning season since 2019 when Bill O'Brien took a Deshaun Watson-led squad to the divisional round of the playoffs.

LIVE: Updated NFL standings, clinching scenarios for Week 18

If the Texans can earn a win in Week 18, they will have a chance to play in the postseason for the first time since that contest.

Here's what to know about the Texans' playoff picture and what they need to do to qualify for the postseason.

Texans playoff picture for Week 18

The Texans have a simple formula for making the 2024 NFL playoffs: Beat the Colts in Week 18.

The Colts and Texans both currently own 9-7 records, which puts them in a tie for the No. 8 seed in the conference. Indianapolis currently owns the tiebreaker, but Houston would surpass the Colts in the standings with a win.

If the Texans win, they will be in and vault over the current-No. 7 seeded Steelers. Houston beat Pittsburgh 30-6 in Week 4, so the Texans own the head-to-head tiebreaker needed to beat the Steelers in any tie for the No. 7 seed.

If the Bills lose to the Dolphins to create a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots, the Texans would have a one-game advantage over Buffalo in the divisional record category. That may allow the Texans to climb as high as the No. 6 seed.

Either way, if the Texans win, they are guaranteed a wild-card berth.

How the Texans can win the AFC South

The Texans can win the AFC South, as well. They would need to win and see the Jaguars lose or tie against the Titans for that to happen. So, it wouldn't be out of the question for the Texans to win the division and get the AFC's No. 4 seed.

Still, Houston should be focused on winning above all else, as earning a victory guarantees them a spot in the postseason.

POWER RANKINGS: Cowboys, Browns, Steelers climb as Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks drop for Week 18

Texans clinching scenarios

Below is a clearer look at Houston's clinching scenarios in Week 18 of the 2023 NFL season:

Houston Texans (9-7)

Houston clinches the AFC South division title with:

  • Texans win AND Jaguars loss or tie

Houston clinches a playoff berth with:

  • Texans win

A loss to the Colts or a tie would eliminate the Texans from postseason contention.

Jacob Camenker Photo

Jacob Camenker is a senior content producer at The Sporting News.