Texans vs. Colts: Top Matchup Issues in Houston's Quest for Top Seed in AFC
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Who would have guessed it would be the Colts that would be snug and warm in their playoff beds while the Texans would still be scrambling to secure a bye?
The two teams play for the second time in three weeks on Sunday, so here's everything you need to know about the rematch.
What It Means
For Houston, a win would secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It would also lock down a 6-0 record against the AFC South and mark the first time the Texans ever won in Indianapolis.
For the Colts, a win would be a perfect way to celebrate the return of Chuck Pagano to the sidelines. It would also signal to the Texans that the 2013 AFC South crown will be hard won.
The only downside about a win for Indianapolis is that it would likely lead to second-round trip to Denver instead of Houston, were the Colts to pull an upset in the Wild Card Round.
Matchup that Matters
This game will come down to the same matchup as the first game.
Can the Colts block J.J. Watt?
In the first go-around, Watt was utterly unstoppable. A big part of the reason why is that Indianapolis simply does not have quality players on the offensive line.
The rumor is that Indy was so disturbed by Watt's thrashing that it is now rethinking the viability of players on the roster.
The Colts have to come up with an answer to Watt to have any hope of winning. That will likely mean more double-teams and a greater use of Dwayne Allen and Mewelde Moore in blocking for Luck.
If they can find time for Luck to throw, big plays will abound. If they can't, they may rue the decision not to rest Andrew Luck.
What Went Right for Indy in Round 1
The Colts managed to keep the first game close for three quarters thanks to five field goals from the Texans.
Houston's offense only managed one touchdown (the other came on a blocked punt), as the Indy defense forced Gary Kubiak into conservative choices all game long.
The field goals turned what should have been a blowout into a close game.
The Colts managed to get spurts of good play from Luck when he had time to throw, but that wasn't often enough.
In the second go-around, the Colts will have to play bend-but-don't-break football and hope that Kubiak is content to kick all afternoon.
What Went Right for Houston in Round 1
Basically everything went right for the Texans.
Matt Schaub was efficient. Arian Foster had big runs late in the game. The Colts had no one who could slow down Andre Johnson.
The game was a 12-point finish, but it really should have been more like 20.
Houston controlled the game statistically, and if not for a single blown coverage against T.Y. Hilton, would likely have been able to rest its starters in the fourth quarter.
Best Video Only Tangentially Related to the Game
Welcome back, coach.
Indianapolis Will Win If...
...Arians finds a way to slow down Watt.
If the Colts come out with lots of emotion and play well beyond the level they have for the last month, it will help, but all the good feelings in the world can't block the Defensive Player of the Year.
If Watt is neutralized, the Colts can win.
If he's not, they won't.
Houston Will Win If...
...they convert long drives for touchdowns.
Kubiak won't be able to rely on field goals to win this game. If he lets Indy hang around until the fourth quarter, he can kiss home-field advantage in the playoffs goodbye.
His team will have to keep its composure and finish off drives.
The good news for Houston is that Indy's best corner, Vontae Davis, would likely not even be a nickelback on any other playoff-caliber team. Johnson abused Davis in the first matchup and should have his way with him again.
There are all kinds of ways to parse this game, but it always comes down to one thing: talent.
The Texans are significantly better than the Colts at nearly every position but punter and kicker (and what, third wide receiver?). This game should not be close. Even the 12-point win the Texans had in Week 15 was closer than it should have been.
The problem for any analyst when talking about the Colts is that most of the rules go clean out the window. Is it possible that for one week talent won't matter?
Is it possible the Colts will upset the Texans just because Pagano is back and they want to reward him with a win?
Yes, it is quite possible.
If the Colts rise up and steal a victory, it won't be a shock or a surprise. It will, however, be an upset.
Houston 34 Indianapolis 21
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