One of the AFC's two wild-card spots looks unlikely at this point, but the Houston Texans can still finish with a winning record for the first time in franchise history.
Houston looks to build on its first win in six weeks Sunday when it faces a St. Louis Rams team that has dropped 11 straight at home.
After opening 5-3, the Texans appeared to be in position to not only improve upon the franchise-record eight wins set in each of the past two seasons, but to make the playoffs for the first time.
Houston, though, dropped four straight before getting back on track last Sunday with a 34-7 victory over Seattle. Matt Schaub completed 29 of 39 passes for 365 yards and tossed two touchdowns to Andre Johnson, who had season highs with 11 receptions and 193 yards.
Schaub, who has a franchise-record 3,814 passing yards, threw for 336 in the first half as Houston (6-7) built a 27-7 lead.
"That's the most explosive half of football I've ever been around," said coach Gary Kubiak, whose team closes the season against Miami and New England. "I've never been around that. That's what we're capable of and if we find a way to bottle that someday for four quarters, it will be a real happy day."
Schaub, Johnson and the Texans' fourth-ranked passing offense could have another big day against a St. Louis defense yielding 27.8 points per game - 31st in the NFL.
"There are no excuses if you give up 40 points in a game," Rams rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis said following last Sunday's 47-7 loss at Tennessee. "That is not acceptable on any level, whether it's high school, college or professional."
St. Louis (1-12), which has lost 22 of 23, also hasn't been able to accomplish much on offense. The Rams have scored 10 points or fewer seven times and are averaging a league-worst 11.2.
With rookie quarterback Keith Null possibly making his second straight start Sunday, those numbers might not improve against a Texans defense that is playing better of late.
When Kyle Boller couldn't go last week due to a sore thigh, Null, a sixth-round pick from West Texas A&M, made his NFL debut. He completed seven of his first eight passes and finished 27 of 43 for 157 yards with a TD and five interceptions.
"You put a guy in a tough situation, but Keith's pretty solid. He's got some resolve, so I'm going to hope that he will be able to shake it off," said coach Steve Spagnuolo, who has not committed to Null or Boller as the Rams look for their first home win since Oct. 19, 2008, over Dallas.
Whomever is taking the snaps will face a Texans defense that had three sacks, a forced fumble and 15 tackles for loss last Sunday. Mario Williams had a pair of sacks and linebacker DeMeco Ryans matched a season high with 12 tackles.
"It shows we are capable of doing it, and we've just got to continue it next week in St. Louis," rookie linebacker Brian Cushing said. "It doesn't mean anything if you go out and lay an egg."
Houston, which held the Seahawks to 62 yards rushing, will try to slow down St. Louis' Steven Jackson, who is second in the NFL with 1,279 yards.
Jackson ran for a season-low 47 yards against Tennessee.
"Instead of standing here embarrassing myself, and my family, I'm just going to say I'm tired. I'm just tired. I'm tired. You fill in the blanks," Jackson said. "However you want to write the article, however you want to say it, I'm just tired."
Jackson will not be running behind left guard Jacob Bell or right guard Richie Incognito. Bell was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a torn hamstring, while Incognito was released a day earlier after picking up two personal fouls in the first half last Sunday.
In the teams' only meeting, St. Louis won 33-27 in overtime Nov. 27, 2005, in Houston.