Wildcard Weekend: Colts @ Texans

Of all the games this weekend, this one looks to be the most even of all. With each of their regular season games being decided by just a field goal, the Colts and Texans will square off in Houston tomorrow for a rubber match.

In their first matchup of the season, the Texans had controlled most of the game, and had a commanding 28-10 lead in the 3rd quarter. However, Andrew Luck and the Colts offense would not go away so easily, as the offense went on a 21-3 run to force overtime.

In overtime, the Colts would get the ball first and run a 13 play drive generating just 50 yards, finally settling for a 44 yard Adam Vinatieri field goal, and putting the score at 34-31. On the ensuing Texans’ drive, the Colts defense held Deshaun Watson out of the end zone, and forced a 29 yard Fairbairn field goal.

Then it got real interesting. Facing a 4th and 4 on their own 43 yard line, Head Coach Frank Reich decider to take a gamble. He kept the offense on the field. One incomplete pass to Chester Rogers later, gave the Texans unbelievable field position. 4 plays later, Houston stole a win in Indianapolis with a Fairbairn field goal. many fans were left scratching their heads, and wondered why the Colts didn’t punt. The answer to that came during the postgame press conference, as the Indianapolis locker room echoed the same thing, ” We wanted to play to win, not to tie.”

The second round of this fight went much smoother for the Colts. After both teams stumbled out of the gate offensively, the Texans struck first. A late first quarter run by Alfred Blue, gave Houston a 7-0 run. It wasn’t until 6:33 left in the second that Indianapolis put up their first points with a 4 yard Marlon Mack rush. The score was set up by a 60 bomb from Luck to T.Y. Hilton on the previous play. Hilton would go on to finish with 9 receptions for 199 yards! That was the big momentum shift the Colts needed, as they went on to score 10 more points in the second, to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.

Coming out from the half, the Houston offense looked to have shaken off their own rust, as Deshaun Watson orchestrated a 16 play, 75 yard drive, capped by a 1 yard push into the end zone by Houston running back Lamar Miller. The drive took nearly 7 1/2 minutes off of the clock, but didn’t cool off the Colts, as they responded on the very next drive.

Indianapolis would go on a 75 yard drive of their own, and answer Houston’s score with an Andrew Luck strike to wide receiver Zach Pascal in the corner of the end zone from 12 yards out. The Colts would keep a 24-14 lead until late in the 4th, when Deshaun Watson found Deandre Hopkins in the back of the end zone with just 2:37 left in regulation.

Houston chose to trust their defense instead of attempting the onside kick. Things looked good for the Houston defense, until an Andrew Luck hard count got linebacker Jedeveon Clowney to jump offsides on a 3rd and 1 at the Indianapolis 48. The penalty allowed the Colts to drain the remaining time off of the clock and spoil the Texans’ comeback attempt.

Now we gear up for round 3. Here is the stat breakdown for this wildcard battle:

– Each team claimed an away victory in the regular season.

– Scoring Offense: IND-5th/HOU-15th

– Points Against Defense: IND-10th/HOU-T 4th

– Offensive Line Rank: IND-1st/HOU-32nd

– Defense Sacks: IND-19th (38)/HOU-12th (43)

– Turnovers: IND-T 22nd (24)/HOU-T 3rd (16)

– Takeaways: IND-T 10th (26)/HOU-4th (29)

– Team Rushing Yards: IND-20th/HOU-8th

– Team Passing Yards: IND-6th/HOU-17th

– Pass Defense Yards: IND-16th/HOU-28th

– Rush Defense Yards: IND-8th/HOU-3rd

As you can see, on paper, these teams are about as evenly matched as they come. Where one team has a weakness the other has a strength, and vice versa. This makes the decision for this game very difficult, and it may come down to who has the ball last. I’m going to go with the Colts in this one for a few reasons. I’ll list three.

The first reason: I think Indy is one of the few teams that can contain Deandre Hopkins. With a depleted wide receiver group due to injury, Indianapolis held Hopkins to just 36 yards on 4 catches in their last game in Houston. If they can get that kind of production from their secondary this weekend, that takes away a huge part of the Houston offense.

The second reason: The Colts have proven to be effective pass rushers against the awful Texans offensive line. Houston has given up a league worst 62 sacks on the year, and the Colts can take credit for 12 of those. I’ll be expecting to see Deshaun Watson rattled again this weekend.

The third reason: The Colts are capable of winning ugly. Playing against a division opponent is never easy, especially on the road, in the rain, in prime time. However, the Colts managed to do just that, and overcame 12 penalties and two turnovers in what was essentially a playoff game last weekend. I credit the Indianapolis offense for slowing the game down, and dictating the pace. The Colts steamrolled the Titans in time of possession, as the chewed up over 40 minutes of game time. The best defense was a good offense, and I think they’ll take that confidence into Houston.

My prediction: With the reasons above, and the fact that Andrew Luck has advanced further in the playoffs every time he’s been there, I’ve got Indy winning this one 34-24.

Photo Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

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