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Texans' pain could lead to AFC North's gain

If the season ended today, the Ravens would enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the AFC. Even though Baltimore is 8-3 like Houston and New England, the Ravens have a worse win percentage in conference games than the Texans and Patriots.

Luckily for the Ravens and the rest of the AFC North title contenders, there are five weeks left in the regular season. Whichever team wins the AFC North likely will get a top-2 seed and a first-round bye in the postseason because of the Texans' disastrous situation at quarterback.

The Texans are currently the top seed in the AFC, but it's tough to believe they will remain there with starting quarterback T.J. Yates. Yes, the rookie fifth-round draft pick out of North Carolina who was leading his team to the Music City Bowl last year.

Yates has been pressed into action after Matt Leinart went down with a left shoulder (and presumably season-ending) injury Sunday in his first start since replacing Matt Schaub, who is done for the season with a foot injury. This isn't like Charlie Batch coming to the rescue, or even Dennis Dixon for that matter.

It would be ambitious to think a third-string quarterback can lead a team to a top-2 seed, which should open the door for the Ravens, Steelers or Bengals to get a first-round bye along with the division title. Here is Houston's remaining schedule: home against Atlanta, at Cincinnati, home against Carolina, at Indianapolis and home against Tennessee. The Texans might win 10 or 11 games with Yates at quarterback. That could still win the AFC South but it probably won't get them more than a No. 3 seed.

By the end of the regular season, you should expect to see New England and the AFC North champion as the AFC's top two seeds.

When talking about injuries, the top three teams in the AFC North are proving they can win without their star players. The Ravens are 2-0 with linebacker Ray Lewis (toe) on the sideline. The Steelers beat the Chiefs without Troy Polamalu (head) or LaMarr Woodley (who has been out for three straight games with a hamstring injury). And the Bengals beat the Browns without their most feared pass-rusher in Carlos Dunlap (hamstring).