The NFL playoffs officially kick off on Saturday with the Wild-Card game between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans. At home, the Texans are favored by 1.5 points over their AFC South rivals with an over/under of 48 points.
When you think about the Texans starting the season 0-3, it’s amazing that they ended up winning the AFC South. Starting with a Week 4 win over the Colts, Houston rattled off nine wins in a row. Of course, the Colts also stopped that streak in Week 14, as the Texans lost two of their last four games to finish the regular season.
The Colts also started the season slowly, as they were 1-5 at one point. However, they’ve nine of their last 10 games since then to finish 10-6 and claim the second wild-card spot in the AFC. That includes wins in each of their last four games, including their 24-21 win in Houston back in Week 14.
Hold the Line
Houston’s biggest weakness this season and something that could be their downfall in the playoffs is their offensive line. The Texans allowed Deshaun Watson to be sacked 62 times, an astounding number for a division champion. That number could be even higher if Watson weren’t so mobile. Obviously, the Texans have overcome that weakness more times than not this season, but they couldn’t overcome Indy’s five sacks in their last meeting.
If the Texans are going to keep pressure off Watson, they’ll have to run the ball effectively. However, while Lamar Miller has had a nice season, he missed Week 16 with an injury and was held largely in check in Week 17. On top of that, the Colts have given up less than four yards per carry this season. If the Texans can’t get Miller and the running game going, Watson is going to running around all game.
While the Texans have had issues with their offensive line this season, that part of the team has been a strength for the Colts. Andrew Luck has been sacked just 18 times, and most of those came early in the season when they were struggling. Of course, the Texans have one of the better pass rushes in the NFL. J.J. Watt has 16 sacks on the year while Jadeveon Clowney has chipped in nine, so the Indy offensive line may have their hands full.
Of course, if the Colts can keep Luck protected, he’ll have a chance to pick apart the Houston secondary. The Texans can be vulnerable against the pass when the likes of Watt and Clowney don’t get to the quarterback. Luck doesn’t have a lot of elite receivers at his disposal, but T.Y. Hilton is a constant threat and tight end Eric Ebron has been a revelation this season. Both could give the Houston a world of problems.
Winning Up Front
The Colts have a real chance to win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. If that’s the case, they’ll be tough to beat, especially since they have the more experienced quarterback. Barring a superhuman effort from Watson or Watt, this is Indy’s game to lose. Bet on the Colts beating the Texans on the road.