When the NFL Network scheduled the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts for a prime-time, Thursday night game, I am sure they were hoping it would be an epic clash between two teams fighting over a division title.
The Texans were able to skate by for two weeks with T.J. Yates playing quarterback, but they got their lunch handed to them against the Panthers last week. Now all those questions about what they will do when the postseason rolls around are going to get a little bit louder.
The Colts haven't had much to celebrate this season, but at least they are in the win column. It took a lot longer than almost anyone thought, and now that they are there, they want to keep playing. That's why it is a good thing they are on a short week.
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana
When: Thursday, Dec. 22 at 8:20 p.m. EDT
Watch: NFL Network
Listen: SR610 AM/100.3 KILT FM/1010 AM, Sirius Channel 113 (Houston); AM 1070 WFNI/97.1 HANK FM, Sirius Channel 128 (Indianapolis)
Betting Line: Houston (-6)
What's at Stake?
The Texans are still locked in a battle with New England, Baltimore and Pittsburgh for a first-round bye in the AFC. They have already clinched the division title, so if they don't want to push their starters too hard in this game, they don't have to.
The Colts are just playing for pride now, but after earning their first win of the season last week, they have more confidence and will be able to carry themselves with a little more swagger than we have seen from them.
Texans Injury Report
Out: QB Matt Schaub (foot), DE Mario Williams (pectorals), G Mike Brisiel (leg), WR Andre Johnson (hamstring), QB Matt Leinart (clavicle)
Probable: WR Kevin Walter (knee)
Colts Injury Report
Out: DB Mike Newton (neck), DL Drake Nevis (back), QB Peyton Manning (neck), DB Terrence Johnson (arm)
Probable: RB Delone Carter (arm)
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em, Sleeper
Start 'Em: Texans RB Arian Foster
Any running back that goes up against the Colts seems to have a good game, although Chris Johnson would beg to differ based on last week's performance.
Foster missed the first game the Texans had against the Colts this season, but he will have plenty of chances to make up for this week. He is going to run all over this small defensive line, and he could end up being the top fantasy back of championship weekend.
Sit 'Em: Colts WR Reggie Wayne
Normally Wayne is a must-start player, but his performance in the last three weeks has been a disappointment.
In fact, since the start of November, Wayne has been terrible with the exception of one game against Carolina on November 27, when he had 122 yards and one touchdown.
Don't get fooled by the name, Wayne is going to be a bust this week.
Sleeper: Texans WR Jacoby Jones
Jones is a relative unknown compared to the other playmakers the Texans have on offense, but he has had moments this season where he looks like a solid No. 2 fantasy option.
For the season, Jones has just 25 catches and two touchdowns but is averaging 17 yards per reception. He can be a big-play threat in the right matchup.
The Colts don't have a good secondary, so if the Texans feel a need to throw the ball, Jones could get a few chances down the field to make some big plays happen.
What They Are Saying
Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, in his usual weekly snap judgments column, doesn't think that Colts head coach Jim Caldwell did enough to save his job with last week's victory.
Getting rid of the goose egg has to help Colts head coach Jim Caldwell's job prospects, but I by no means think he's safe at 1-13. It's still a hard sell to bring him back after the Colts were so wholly non-competitive for most of the past 10 weeks or so.
Key Matchup: Texans Offensive Line vs. Colts Defensive Line
The Colts' defense is at its best when Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are able to create pressure on the opposing quarterback. When those two are on their game, the rest of the defense doesn't feel as much pressure to perform.
Unfortunately, they have not been on their game a lot this season. They have had their moments, but overall it has not been a banner year for either player.
If the Texans' offensive line is able to control the trenches, this game will get out of control in a hurry. It wouldn't be a surprise if they were able to run for over 250 yards against this defense.
While I am tempted to go with the Colts because they are playing at home on a short week and coming off a win, I don't see them being strong enough to control all the playmakers the Texans have.
Texans 27, Colts 14