Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
|Date & Time||Thursday November 21, 2019, 8:20 PM (EST)|
Houston -5.5; Total 46.5
A game with massive playoff implications will take place in Houston on Thursday night when the Indianapolis Colts (6-4) travels to NRG Stadium to face the Texans (6-4) in a battle for first place in the AFC South. Despite being tied for the divisional lead, the Colts knocked off the Texans in Indianapolis 30-23 on Oct. 20. A Colts win Thursday would give Indy a game lead plus the tie-breaker, creating, in essence, a two-game lead in the division.
The Texans enter the game as the hotter team in terms of wins and losses, however, they are coming off of their worst loss in two seasons. Houston lost 41-7 on Sunday at Baltimore, which is the biggest margin of loss since a 45-7 defeat at Jacksonville on Dec. 17, 2017. But prior to that loss, the Texans had won four of their last five games and six of their last eight, including a pair of wins against divisional foe Jacksonville.
It’s tough to look at the Baltimore game for comparison since the Ravens have been crushing everyone they have faced for more than a month. Instead, it seems fairer to look at what Houston did prior to the Baltimore loss. A 23-point win over Jacksonville and a win over Oakland by a field goal came after the seven-point loss at Indianapolis in late October. Prior to that, Houston went into Kansas City and took a one-touchdown win after the Texans put up 53 points against Atlanta. In fact, the Texans are 5-1 at home this season with the only loss being a 16-10 defeat to Carolina in week 4.
Despite being outplayed by Lamar Jackson last week, Deshaun Watson has been the leader of this Texans team all year. He has completed just under 70 percent of his passes for 289.2 yards per game with 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Veteran DeAndre Hopkins is far and away Watson’s favorite target, catching more than twice as many passes as anyone else on the team with 75 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns. His 745 yards are second-most in the NFL. Tight end Darren Fells has caught six touchdowns passes to lead the team, while Carlos Hyde is the team’s leading rusher averaging nearly five yards per carry and 76.9 yards per game with four touchdowns.
Indianapolis has been a team in crisis, losing two of its last three games, but the two losses came with starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett out with an injury. After losses to Pittsburgh and Miami with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, Brissett returned to knock off Jacksonville 33-13. So, with Brissett at quarterback, the Colts have won six of their last seven with the only loss coming to Oakland in week 4. Maybe most importantly, Indianapolis is 3-0 in the AFC South -- including the win over Houston -- so if the Colts happen to lose this game to the Texans and the first tie-breaker of head-to-head competition is split, Indy would still look good in the second tie-breaker of divisional record. Interestingly enough, Houston’s lone divisional loss is against the Colts, so if the Texans win, head-to-head would be split and each would have one divisional loss in the second tie-breaker with two divisional games to go.
Brissett, when healthy, has been an impressive manager of the game, passing for 1,797 yards and 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Marlon Mack is one of the elite rushers in the game, ranking fifth in the NFL with 862 yards and four touchdowns. The rushers with more yards on the ground include names like McCaffrey, Chubb, Cook, and Jacobs -- elite company indeed. Zach Pascal, T.Y. Hilton, Eric Ebron, and Jack Doyle have all caught passes for between 276 and 364 yards and have combined for 15 touchdowns overall.
In the big winner over Jacksonville, Brissett only passed for 148 yards, but he didn’t need anymore. Mack combined with Jonathan Williams for a massive game on the ground. Williams rushed 13 times for 116 yards and Mack added 109 yards rushing on 14 carries to overwhelm the Jaguars’ defense. This is an interesting stat considering that Baltimore put up 263 yards on the ground against Houston last week, which is something that the Colts could possibly replicate on Thursday. Baltimore is the top rushing team in the NFL, but the Colts are fourth in the league in rushing, and while they don’t have Jackson, they might be able to learn from the Ravens’ success in the ground game.
This should be a fascinating game. Prior to the Baltimore game, Houston was a top-10 defense against the rush. Can Indy duplicate when the Ravens did? Can Watson get the Texans offense going against a Colts’ defense that ranks in the middle of the NFL in points allowed? It should be great. But when looking to place a bet, there are two key stats that stand out in what should otherwise be a tight matchup. As a home favorite, Houston is just 1-3 against the spread this season, while Indianapolis is 2-1-1 as a road underdog. But even more importantly, the Texans are just 1-2 against the spread in divisional games, and the Colts are 3-0 in such games.
Houston may win this game, but 5.5 points is too much. Take Indianapolis in this key AFC South game and watch the Colts keep it close enough all night.