The Texans have a chance today to render their game next week meaningless, and rest their starters in Week 17 to get healthy for the playoffs.
If the Texans win today, they clinch the AFC South. And if the Patriots beat the Bills today, the Texans are eliminated from getting a bye week in the playoffs. That means they know they’re playing at home in the wild card round, and have nothing to play for the following week.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien hasn’t said whether he’d rest his starters in that scenario, but it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t. An injury to Deshaun Watson would be devastating to the Texans’ postseason chances, and putting him on the field with nothing to play for would be unwise.
If the Texans do rest their starters, they could make a major impact in the AFC wild card race. That’s because they play the Titans in Week 17, and the Titans may need to win to get in. A similar scenario could play out with the other team competing for the final AFC wild card, the Steelers, who could face a Ravens team resting its starters in Week 17. The final playoff spot may come down to two teams playing against opponents that aren’t really trying to beat them.