With trepidation, Houston to the playoffs

I broke down.

Over the past week, I’ve stared over and over at the cover of the official NFL Record and Fact Book, which features helmets of all the teams. They are grouped by division in alphabetical order.

I stared and stared, waiting for the last entry in the AFC playoff field to jump out at me.

I think, because of the lockout, there will be less turnover than in a usual season. But something will change. I like San Diego to get back to the top of the AFC West. And while I like the addition of Lee Evans, I think despite the benefits of playing the NFC West, Baltimore is going to slip. It’s hard to bank on a team that’s banking on Bryant McKinnie. And it's too easy to pick the obvious six teams. Someone will fall out.

With New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and San Diego lined up as my division winners and the New York Jets a firm wild-card team in my eyes, I was left with an open slot.

Kicking Baltimore out creates room for ...?

I like the Chiefs' leadership and direction, but a team like that typically takes a step back after a breakthrough. The Browns are going to be better than people think, but not better than the Ravens, and I am keeping the Ravens out. I cannot see a third team from the AFC East making it.

I’ve said over and over and over that I will only pick Houston to make the playoffs after the Texans finally make the playoffs.

But I am officially changing my mind, and here is the proof.

I think the single-best thing the NFL has going for it is unpredictability. I don’t make game predictions because a coin flip can typically fare as well or better. And I am quick to point out that predicting wrong is like showering in the morning. Everyone does it.

I’ve got serious questions about the Texans' mental makeup, and you will read more about that later today.

Nevertheless, my prediction for the sixth playoff team in the AFC is ... Houston.