The first matchup of wildcard weekend will feature two AFC South division foes as the Indianapolis Colts (10-6) will travel to NRG Stadium to take on the Houston Texans (11-5). Given that these two are in the same division, they have already faced each other twice this year, splitting the first two as the Texans won 37-34 in overtime back on September 30thand the Colts won 24-21 on December 29th. Coming into this game, the Colts have won 4 in a row, including a 33-17 win over the Tennessee Titans in the final game of the year, ensuring their playoff berth. For the Texans, they have gone 2-2 in their last 4 but finished the regular season with a 20-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts and Texans will kick off the postseason Saturday with kickoff scheduled for 4:35 pm ET.
The point spread for this one opens with the Houston Texans as 1.5-point favorites playing at home. The over/under on total points scored is set at 47.5 points.
By The Numbers
In terms of total defense, these two teams were pretty neck and neck. The Colts ranked 11th in the NFL, allowing 339.4 yards of total offense to opponents, while the Texans ranked 12th, allowing 343.1 yards. When it comes to average points given up, though, the Texans were statistically the stronger team. They rank 4th in the NFL, giving up an average of 19.8 points per game. The Colts come in at 10th, allowing 21.5 points per game.
Offensively, it is the Colts that were the stronger team throughout the year. They averaged 386.2 yards of total offense per game (7th in the NFL) and 5th in average points (27.1). The Texans ranked 15th in total offense (362.6 yards per game) and 11th in total points (25.1). Despite the differences, each have their own strengths on offense. Houston ranked better (8th) in rushing yards per game (126.3) while the Colts were better through the air (ranked 6thwith 278.8 yards per game).
The interesting matchup to watch will be the Colts passing game versus the Texans defense. While the Texans were stout against the run (3rd in NFL), they ranked 28th against the pass, allowing 260.4 yards per game.
Colts Look To Win Tie-Breaker
The Colts come into this one on a roll and hope to win the tiebreaker between the two teams in the season series. To do so, they will hope that Andrew Luck can continue his solid play. On the season, Luck threw for 4,593 yards, 39 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He was also aided by a great offensive line, one that only saw Luck get sacked 18 times this season. His leading receivers this year were T.Y. Hilton (76 catches, 1,270 yards, 6 touchdowns) and Eric Ebron (66 catches, 750 yards, 13 touchdowns).
Probably the biggest reason for the strong second half of the season was the play of Marlon Mack. Injured throughout the first part of the season (including the first time that the two teams matched up), Mack finished the season going for 908 yards and 9 touchdowns. Even though the Texans are tough on running games, if he can find any success, it will open up the field for Luck.
Defensively, the Colts were led by Darius Leonard (111 tackles), Denico Autry (9 sacks) and Kenny Moore (3 interceptions).
Texans Looking To Start Playoffs With A Win At Home
The Houston Texans certainly looked like a playoff team most of the season. They have a dual-threat quarterback, one of the best receivers in the game and a very solid defense. The defense is led by one of the best defensive players in the game in JJ Watt. He leads the team with 16 sacks. Other leaders include Zach Cunningham (73 tackles) and both Andre Hal and Justin Reid (3 interceptions).
Under center for the offense will be Deshaun Watson. This season, Watson has thrown for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions, but has also been sacked a whopping 62 times. For the Texans to have success, the offensive line will need to keep him upright. Watson also is a threat with his feet, too. He rushed for 551 yards and 5 touchdowns this season.
The leading rusher for the team was Lamar Miller. He went for 973 yards and 5 touchdowns. The leading receiver for the Texans is DeAndre Hopkins. He had a fantastic season, going for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Taking The Colts And The Points
These two teams are very evenly matched up and, frankly, I could see this going either way. For me, I look at the first two matchups. In the first one, it took the Texans overtime to pull out the victory, and they did so playing against a Marlon Mack-less Colts team. In the second matchup, at NRG Stadium and with Mack, the Colts were able to take the victory (and that was only about 4 weeks ago). Still, in both games, 3 points decided the outcome, so I think this one will be tight. I have to go with the hotter team, though, and right now that is the Colts. I am putting my money on the Colts at +1.5.