HOUSTON -- There is now a three-team race to the top of the AFC South and the Houston Texans are in control of their destiny.
The Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts all have a chance.
How can they do it? I dove into ESPN.com's NFL Playoff Machine to check out some scenarios. The wild-card race is a bit more complicated, but here's a look at how the Texans can win the division with or without a win in Indianapolis.
If the Texans win in Indianapolis
Week 15: If the Texans win in Indianapolis, they'll clear their most difficult hurdle. They are 0-13 there all time and already started talking about that in the locker room after their loss to the Patriots. Worst-case scenario for the Texans would be for the Jaguars to win this week too. The Jaguars can get to 8-8 by winning all three of their remaining games. This week they play the Atlanta Falcons.
Week 16: The Texans only need one more win after beating Indianapolis to secure the division. If they lose to the Titans this week, their next game will essentially be a play-in game. If the Texans beat the Colts and then beat the Titans in Week 16, they will win the division according to the playoff machine. The Colts, Texans and Jaguars all could finish 8-8 in this scenario with the Texans winning the tie-breaker. A three-team tie-breaker first considers which team has the best record among the three, then the winning percentages within the division, winning percentage in common games and winning percentage in conference games in that order.
Week 17: If the Texans lost in Week 16 after beating the Colts, this becomes a play-in game for the Texans against the Jaguars. Win and they're in, no matter what the Colts do. If the Colts win both their Week 16 and Week 17 games after losing to the Texans, the teams finish with 8-8 records and the Texans have the tie-breaker.
If the Texans lose in Indianapolis
Week 15: A loss by the Texans here would clear the Colts' path to another division title. They hadn't lost a division game since 2012 until last week, but they'll recover with a win over the Texans. For the Texans, things would get significantly more difficult and they'd need some help. Houston would now lose the head-to-head tie-breaker to the Colts, having been swept by them this season.
Week 16: The Texans play the Titans in Nashville this week and can pull even with the Colts again this week if the Colts stumble. If they don't stumble at Miami, the Colts will seal their third consecutive division title. Given the Colts' season so far, though, it's reasonable to think they might lose to the Dolphins. The Jaguars still would need to win in Week 15, 16 and 17 while the Colts and Texans both lost in Weeks 16 and 17 in order to win the division.
Week 17: If the Colts lost in Week 16 while the Texans and Jaguars won, Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville all would still be alive to win the division title. This would set up an oddly exciting finish for the AFC South. In that case, Indianapolis wins the division with a win over the Tennessee Titans, regardless of what happens in the Texans-Jaguars game. If Indianapolis loses, then the winner of Texans-Jaguars takes the division at 8-8. The Titans have some chances to play spoiler. Who would've thought that could happen two months ago?