Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans

For this first of two exciting Wild Card Weekend AFC matchups, the 10-6 Indianapolis Colts travel to Texas to take on the AFC South winning 11-5 Houston Texans in this 2018 rubber match to prove once and for all who the better team in their division was this season, all happening on Saturday, January 5 at 3:35 pm at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX, broadcasted by ESPN, ABC.

The 10-6 Indianapolis Colts:

Going into Week 17, the Indianapolis Colts were tied with the Tennessee Titans, both with a record of 9-6 and trailing the Houston Texans by a game in the AFC South, but the Colts were already scheduled to play the Titans in Week 17.

Quarterback Andrew Luck and his Colts ended up taking down the Titans 33-17 and became the sixth AFC playoff seed, continuing a season where Luck’s 4,593 passing yards rank fifth among his peers, his 39 touchdowns second most in the league.

Indianapolis is not terrific on the road, just 4-4, but they were 4-2 against divisional rivals so they could very well do a repeat of their Week 14 victory over the Texans when they squeaked by them 24-21.

The 11-5 Houston Texans:

Despite a Week 16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the 11-5 Houston Texans clinched their playoff berth anyway and then clinched their AFC South title and the sixth playoff seed in Week 17 by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-3.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson had a big game, completing 25-of-35 for 234 yards, with 147 of those yards going to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who caught 12 passes and averaged 12.2 yards per catch.

Houston is a solid defender of their home turf with a 6-2 record at NRG Stadium, and they’re 4-2 against AFC South opponents this season so expect them to try to repeat their Week 4 success against the Colts, when they beat them by a score of 37-34 in overtime.

What’s at stake:

These two teams have met 34 times, with Houston winning 8 games and Indianapolis winning 26 games. The Colts have won 4 of the last 10 meetings, their last one this season in Week 14, the score was Indianapolis 24, Houston 21.

Whoever wins this matchup will go on to the Divisional Round of the playoffs next.

They’ll either play the number one seeded AFC team, the 12-4 Kansas City Chiefs, or the number two seed, the 11-5 New England Patriots, but right now those games are listed as TBD (to be determined).

And of course, whichever team loses this one goes home, their 2018 season finally over.

Questions to answer…

Who’s favored to win this Wild Card Weekend Colts-Texans matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Colts and the Texans and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Colts offense ranked 7th in the NFL

Indianapolis has won nine of their last ten games with a 7th ranked offense that scores 27.1 points per game while moving the ball 386.2 total yards each game.

Quarterback Andrew Luck has completed 67.3 percent of his passes this season, up from 63.5 last season, a big reason being his offensive line allowing less sacks, with 41 total sacks in 2017 and just 18 this regular season.

Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is having a standout year, having caught 76 balls for 1,270 yards and 6 touchdowns, ranked 12th among his receiving peers.

Colts’ rushing attack ranked 20th overall

Running back Marlon Mack didn’t quite break the 1000-yard mark this season, but he ran the ball 195 times for 908 yards and 9 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

Mack also showed his soft hands by catching 17 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Indianapolis offensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Wild Card Weekend: center Ryan Kelly (neck), wide receiver Daurice Fountain (ankle) and wide receiver Ryan Grant (toe).

The 2018 Texans offense ranked 15th overall

Starting in Week 4 with a 37-34 overtime win over the Colts, the Houston Texans went on a nine-game winning streak that finally came to an end in Week 14 against, you guessed it, the Indianapolis Colts, who beat them 24-21.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson had an okay day during that loss (27/38 for 267 yards and a touchdown, no interceptions) but he’ll have to have an excellent game against the Colts, who are just 16th ranked against the pass.

And an excellent passing game is likely to happen given that Watson’s number one target is the second best wide receiver in the league, DeAndre Hopkins, who’s caught 115 balls this season for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Houston’s run game 8th in the league

The Texans have a respectable rushing attack led by seven-year veteran Lamar Miller, who ran the ball 210 times this season for 973 yards and 5 touchdowns, including a 97-yard touchdown run against the Titans in Week 12.

Houston’s second most productive rusher this season has been Watson, who’s run the ball 99 times for 551 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Houston offensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Wild Card Weekend: wide receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring).

Colts Defense ranks 11th in the league

Indianapolis allows their opponents to score an average of 21.5 points and move the ball a total of 339.4 yards each game, their rushing defense ranked 8th and their passing defense ranked 16th.

The Colts’ 15 total interceptions are tied for 9th most and their 38 sacks are tied for 19th most.

Colts Defensive Players to watch:

The best tackler in the NFL during the regular season was Colts outside linebacker Darius Leonard, who had 163 combined tackles along with 7.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 10 passes defended, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.

With almost half of the team’s 19 total sacks, defensive tackle Denico Autry totaled 9.0 sacks himself this season.

Keep your eye on the Colts’ secondary for cornerback Kenny Moore, who not only has 3 interceptions, but also 77 combined tackles, 14 passes defended and a forced fumble.

Colts defensive injuries

Listed as questionable for Wild Card Weekend: strong safety Clayton Geathers (knee) and defensive end Tyquan Lewis (knee).

Texans Defense is 12th overall

Though ranked a spot lower than the Colts on defense, the Texans allow opponents to score less points per game, 19.8, and about the same total yardage each game, 343.1 with a rush defense ranked 3rd and a passing defense ranked 28th.

Houston has the same number of interceptions as Indianapolis does, 15, but their 43 sacks are tied for 11th most in the league.

Texans Defensive Players to watch:

The two Texans with the most tackles this season are inside linebackers Zach Cunningham (107 tackles) and Benardrick McKinney (105 tackles).

Defensive end J.J. Watt is listed as questionable (see below) for this game, but he’s a huge presence in every game with the second most sacks by an individual (16.0) along with 7 forced fumbles.

Defensive back Andre Hal and rookie strong safety Justin Reed have the most interceptions on the team with 3 apiece, including Reed’s 101 yard interception return for a touchdown against the Redskins in Week 11.

Texans Defensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Wild Card Weekend: cornerback Johnathan Josesph (neck), nose tackle Brandon Dunn (ankle), defensive end J.J. Watt (arm) and defensive back Mike Tyson (knee).

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Punters:

Indianapolis’s punter, Rigoberto Sanchez, was an All-Rookie last season, and so far he’s punted 57 times for a net average of 42.7 yards per punt, T-3rd best in the league.

Houston’s punter, Trevor Daniel, an undrafted free agent this offseason, has punted 74 times for a net average of 39.1 yards per punt, ranked T-24th in the NFL.

Placekickers:

Indianapolis’ veteran placekicker Adam Vinatieri is a 4x Super Bowl Champion, a 3x Pro Bowler and a 3x First-team All-Pro.

Vinatieri is 23-for-27, his longest was a 54-yarder, and he has missed three extra point attempts (44/47).

Houston’s placekicker, Ka’imi Fairbairn, in his third season with the Texans, has gone 37-for-42, his longest was a 54-yarder.

Fairbairn has missed two extra point attempts (39/41).

Punt Returners:

Indianapolis’s punt returner, wide receiver Chester Rogers, is ranked T-25th in the league.

Rogers has returned 23 punts for 215 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 9.3 yards per return, his longest for 51 yards.

Houston’s punt returner, wide receiver DeAndre Carter, was picked up on waivers from Philadelphia in November.

Carter is ranked 27th in the league in return average after returning 16 punts for 146 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 9.1 yards per return, his longest for 30 yards.

Colts–Texans prediction and odds

The odds makers have the Texans and the Colts even with an over/under of 48.5.

CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:

Ryan Wilson goes with the over and has it Colts 28, Texans 27

John Breech takes the under and predicts it Colts 27, Texans 24

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