Bill O'Brien says Texans will play starters vs. Titans even though Houston may be locked into playoff seeding

The Houston Texans will be playing on wild card weekend regardless of Sunday's outcome against the Tennessee Titans in Week 17. On Monday, head coach Bill O'Brien said the Texans will play their starters for Sunday's AFC South showdown, even though the Titans are playing for their playoff fate and the Texans may already have their seeding in the postseason determined before kickoff.

"We are playing to win," O'Brien said in his Monday press conference.

Obviously what O'Brien says Monday can obviously change when the Texans take the field for their regular-season finale in six days, but Houston should know what seed it will have by the time the game starts. The Kansas City Chiefs, currently the No. 3 seed in the AFC, will clinch that spot with a win against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs can also get the No. 2 seed in the playoffs (and a first-round bye) if they win and the New England Patriots lose, sliding New England down to the No. 3 seed.  

Both the Chiefs and the Patriots play at 1 p.m. ET, so how does this affect the Texans? Houston plays Tennessee at 4:25 p.m. ET, so the Texans could potentially know what seed they will be in the AFC playoffs by kickoff.  If the Chiefs lose to the Chargers and the Texans beat the Titans, Houston would get the No. 3 seed by virtue of its head-to-head win over Kansas City. A Chiefs win locks the Texans into the No. 4 seed and they would play the Buffalo Bills on wild card weekend. 

The Texans can still play their starters with the objective of knocking out the Titans, who need a win to remain alive in the AFC playoff race. Via CBS Sports colleague Will Brinson, the Titans are currently the No. 6 seed based on their strength of victory (.444) vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers' strength of victory (.305). If Tennessee wins on Sunday against the Texans, the Titans would clinch the No. 6 seed, so the Texans resting their starters would have been ideal for Tennessee.

Pittsburgh can still make the playoffs if the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens (who are expected to rest several key starters, including Lamar Jackson) and the Titans lose to the Texans, so the Steelers will need some help. If the Chiefs do lose to the Chargers, the Texans may prefer a wild card matchup with the Steelers, giving them more incentive to be the No. 3 seed  -- the Steelers also play at 4:25. As you can clearly see, there is a lot still up for grabs in the AFC.

The Oakland Raiders could get the No. 6 seed as well. First, Oakland has to beat the Denver Broncos then they need the Titans and Steelers to both lose. Finally, they need the Indianapolis Colts to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. All these scenarios need to happen for Oakland to clinch a playoff berth. 

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