Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM
WC - Colts at Texans
The NFL playoffs kick off on Saturday afternoon with an AFC South battle between the Colts and Texans from NRG Stadium in Houston. Both these teams struggled out of the gate, but rebounded as the division sends two teams to the playoffs for the second consecutive season after Jacksonville and Tennessee made it in 2017.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Colts (10-6 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) finally had a healthy Andrew Luck after the former top pick missed last season with a shoulder injury. Indianapolis fell into a 1-5 hole through six games, with the lone victory coming at Washington in Week 2 as six-point underdogs, 21-6. The Colts dropped their first two home games to the Bengals and Texans, while allowing at least 34 points in four of those defeats.
However, Frank Reich’s team would turn things around by picking up five consecutive wins to climb above the .500 mark, as the offense posted 27 points or more in each of those victories. After getting blanked at Jacksonville in Week 13 in a 6-0 setback, the Colts rebounded with four more wins to close out the season, including back-to-back victories over the Texans and Cowboys. Indianapolis clinched its first playoff berth since 2014 in a Week 17 winner-take-all triumph at Tennessee, 33-17 to finish 4-2 inside the AFC South.
The Texans (11-5 SU, 7-8-1 ATS) were a mess after three weeks, losing to the Patriots, Titans, and Giants to fall to 0-3. It looked like a long season for Houston, but the Texans ran of nine consecutive wins, including back-to-back overtime triumphs over the Colts and Cowboys to start the hot streak. During that winning streak, Houston limited opponents to 17 points or less six times, while picking up three double-digit home victories over Miami, Tennessee, and Cleveland.
Houston split its final four games, including losses by three points or less to Indianapolis and Philadelphia. The Texans wrapped up their third AFC South title in the last four seasons, while picking up the second-most wins in franchise history with 11 victories, coming one short of the 12-4 mark in 2012.
WHO TO WATCH
Luck threw for the second-most touchdowns in a season in his career (39), including an eight-game stretch in which he tossed at least three touchdowns. Running back Marlon Mack is coming off a career season by racking up 908 rushing yards in only 12 games, including a 139-yard effort against Dallas in the Week 15 home shutout. T.Y. Hilton is fighting an ankle injury, but the wide receiver eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each matchup against Houston, as he hauled in nine catches for 199 yards in the Week 14 triumph at Houston.
Deshaun Watson started all 16 games for Houston after missing the second half of 2017 with a torn ACL. The Texans’ quarterback threw 26 touchdowns and was intercepted only nine times, while rushing for five scores. Lamar Miller finished 27 rushing yards short of his third career 1,000-yard rushing season, but was limited to 82 yards in two meetings against Indianapolis. DeAndre Hopkins pulled in a career-high 111 receptions for 1,572 yards, including three straight 100-yard games to close the season.
Indianapolis finished 4-4 away from Lucas Oil Stadium, while the OVER cashed in four of those road affairs. The Colts managed a 3-2 ATS mark in the role of a road underdog, including outright victories at Washington and Houston.
The Texans won six of eight games at NRG Stadium, but covered in only four of those games. Houston began the season 0-3 ATS at home before posting a 4-1 ATS mark in its final five home contests. The UNDER hit in five of eight home games, including in two of three affairs with AFC South opponents.
These two rivals split a pair of three-point outcomes with the road team coming out on top each time. In Week 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Texans entered Indianapolis in must-win mode after starting 0-3. Houston jumped out to a commanding 28-10 third quarter lead highlighted by two Watson touchdown passes and a Watson touchdown scamper.
However, Luck led the Colts back on a 21-3 run to end regulation, highlighted by a touchdown catch by Nyheim Hines with 45 seconds remaining. Indianapolis struck first in overtime with an Adam Vinatieri field goal, but Houston tied it with a field goal, then picked up the rare second three-pointer in the extra session to edge the Colts, 37-34 to cash as one-point favorites and hit the OVER of 48 ½. Luck finished with 464 yards passing and four touchdowns, but Indianapolis rushed for 41 yards without Mack.
The Colts picked up revenge in the second matchup in Houston in Week 14 with a 24-21 victory as four-point underdogs. After Houston scored an early touchdown, Indianapolis struck back for 17 second quarter points, as the Colts led the rest of the way. Luck finished one yard shy of 400 yards passing as Indianapolis captured its fourth win at Houston in the last five visits.
Indianapolis has reached the postseason for the fourth time in Luck’s career since 2012, as the Colts have won two of three times in the Wild Card round. Both victories came at home, as Indianapolis lost in its last road Wild Card affair at Baltimore in 2012 by a 24-9 score. For the fifth time since 2011, the Texans are in the playoffs, as Houston owns a 3-1 record at home in the Wild Card round. Houston and Indianapolis are meeting for the first time ever in the playoffs, while the Texans are facing a division foe in the postseason also for the first time.
VegasInsider.com handicapper Joe Nelson checks in with his thoughts on the initial Wild Card matchup, “Both defenses were very effective against the run in this rivalry as in the two games combined the Colts rushed for a total of 91 yards on 40 carries just fewer than 2.3 yards per rush. Houston was only slightly better on the ground with 208 rushing yards vs. the Colts over 60 carries just fewer than 3.5 yards per rush. Houston finished first in the NFL in allowing just 3.4 yards per rush on the season while only allowing eight rushing touchdowns this season. The Colts weren’t far behind finishing sixth in the NFL allowing 3.9 yards per rush.”
The quarterback play will be the difference in game, according to Nelson, “Luck is 3-3 in playoff games in his career with two road wins and he is the more established passer. Watson has won on the big stage in college and was sixth in the NFL in QB Rating this season. Both quarterbacks had good numbers in the regular season meetings with just one interception each. Luck is more prone to interceptions but Watson takes a great deal of sacks and has had a high fumble count. Watson was sacked 12 times in the two games between these teams while Luck was sacked just six times.”
The Colts and Texans are both two of the biggest long shots to win Super Bowl LIII as each squad sits at 25/1 at Indianapolis and Houston are each 10/1 to capture the AFC title, while the Texans have dropped from a 2 ½-point favorite to a one-point favorite at most spots with a total of 48.
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