Two divisional rivals face off in this AFC Wild Card weekend. The Texans, winners of the AFC South with an 11-5 record, host the Colts, who went 10-6 for the regular season. The Colts are the hotter team coming in, having won four straight including a 24-21 decision over Houston. The Texans are just 2-2 over their last four.
Examining this game, it's tight and evenly matched. The Colts would be a slight favorite on a neutral field, while the Texans are 1 1/2 point home favorites. Statistically, the Colts are 10th in fewest points given up and 4th in scoring. On the flip side, the Texas allow the 5th fewest points and are 11th in scoring offense. Houston is a narrow 1 1/2 point home favorite. Statistically, the Texans are 11th in scoring offense and 5ith in fewest points surrendered. The Colts, on the other hand, rank 4th in scoring and 10th in points allowed.
There's no question that the Colts want to attack mostly through the air, as Andrew Luck threw for nearly 4600 yards this season and 39 touchdowns. His favorite targets are T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron, who have combined for 142 receptions and 19 touchdowns. Wide receiver Chester Rogers and running back Nyheim Hines are also frequently involved, having caught a combined 116 passes this season.
Luck will need time to find his receivers, which he has all season, having been sacked only 18 times. The offensively line will need to on their game to contain JJ Watt (16 sacks) and Jadeveon Clowney (9 sacks). Another key is for Luck to be smart with the football. He has thrown 15 interceptions and Houston's defense has intercepted opposing quarterbacks an equal number of times.
When the Colts run, they will do so with Marlon Mack, who has 908 yards on 4.7 per carry, as well as Hines and Jordan Wilkins. However, running against Houston could be extremely difficult, having allowed only 83 yards per game on 3.4 per attempt.
There's little secret as to what the Texans want to do on offense. They rely mainly on the Deshaun Watson to DeAndre Hopkins combination, as well as the running game of Lamar Miller. Although Miller has been slowed by an ankle injury, he played against the Jaguars in the season finale and should be ready.
Watson has thrown for 26 touchdowns and 1572 of his 4165 yards have gone to Hopkins, who has 115 catches and 11 touchdowns. However, no other player on the team has more than 32 receptions. The Colts will try to pressure Watson, who has been sacked 68 times and control Hopkins by keeping him out of the end zone.
Houston's rushing attack versus the Colts runs defense could be a deciding factor. The Texans will need to run well to take the heat off Waston. Lamar Miller leads the ground game with 973 yards, followed by Watson's 551 on 5.6 per carry and Alfred Blue's 499, albeit on only 3.3 per attempt.
This should be an entertaining, tight game. Generally in the playoffs the team with the hot hand comes away with the win. With two teams equally matched, expect the Colts to come out of Houston with a win by the narrowest of margins.