Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
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The rollercoaster so far
In truth, both sides have had up and down seasons. The Colts started off 1-5 before rallying and ending up with a 10-6 record. The Texans lost their opening three games, before going on a nine-game winning streak which was ended, ironically enough, by the Colts.
For many, this game is a clash between two of the best wide receivers in the game in TY Hilton and DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins ended the regular season with 11 touchdowns, while Hilton smoked the Texans in both games with 13 receptions for 314 yards in the two games. Hilton is likely to play with an injury on Saturday and for Texas to win they must find a way to shut him down.
The main reason most see this game as a battle between wide receivers is because the running games of both sides has not been particularly good in the regular season. Marlon Mack is the leading rusher for the Colts and his 900 plus rushing yards is a decent return for a player that missed games but the Texans held the Colts to two of their four lowest rushing totals of the season.
Altogether the Texans held the Colts to a total of 91 rushing yards (2.28 yards per attempt) on 40 carries. On top of that, the Texans were the top rushing defence in the league this year allowing only 3.4 yards per carry.
On the flip side, the Colts are not too shabby protecting against the run either. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and considering the running backs that Houston have in their stable, that record would look likely to remain in place this weekend as the Texans rely on their QB for running yards.
This leaves the very real possibility that the game will be decided by the throwing ability of both quarterbacks and that is where the Colts have a major advantage.
Luck on the day
On his day, Andrew Luck is one of the best in the business at getting the ball down the field and the Texans will be aware of this. Luck threw for 862 yards and six touchdowns over the two games that they played. One incredible stat from those games is that Luck threw over 100 times against them. The Colts game plan against the Texans will likely be to put the ball in the hands of their talented QB.
For Houston, quarterback Deshaun Watson has shown incredible courage to comeback from some nasty injuries and continue to play while being beat up all season. If Houston are to win, he may need to take some chances and go running with the ball. They will also need star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to continue to get loose in the backfield.
Don't pass it up
It certainly looks like this will come down to a battle of the passing game for both sides and I am expecting a shootout. That, of course, means that the quarterback needs to be protected and there is a huge difference in the respective teams when it comes to doing that.
Indianapolis allowed a league-low 18 sacks in 2018. Houston allowed a league high of 62 sacks, 12 of which came against Indy in their two games. That disparity is a major advantage for the Colts and makes me lean even more towards them, even when considering that Houston has one of the most fearsome defensive fronts in football.
The only real glimmer of hope for Texas is that Indianapolis rely on Andrew Luck so much that if they were to shut him down, Indy would be in real trouble. Despite posting 43 sacks this season, I just don't Houston being anywhere near good enough to do that.
As the game draws nearer, the support for the Colts appears to be getting stronger.
Right now, the Texans are one-point favs on the handicap, mainly because they are at home. By the time the game starts, I expect it to be a 50/50 game or even have the Colts as slight favourites.
Both teams scored 58 total points each in the two regular season games and the total points mark currently stands at over or under 49. The over is a strong selection here but even more value is to be found in the game winner and total points double. The Colts to win and over 47.5 points in the game is currently a 13/5 chance and I expect that to click. With an exciting start to the playoffs, expect Andrew Luck and his Colts will march on.