Houston Texans (10-4 SU, 9-4-1 ATS) at Indianapolis Colts (1-13 SU, 5-9 ATS)
Thursday December 22nd, 2011. 8:20PM EST, NFL Football Week 16
Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis, I.N.
By Jay Horne, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Hou -6.5/IND +6.5
Over/Under Total: 40.5
In week 15 of the NFL, there were some huge surprises and streaks that were snapped rather suddenly. The Houston Texans had a 7 game winning streak snapped when they were blasted 28-13 by a Carolina Panthers team that was previously just 4-9 SU. Another surprise occurred inside Lucas Oil Stadium when the winless Indianapolis Colts, losers of 13 straight, beat the Tennessee Titans decisively 27-13 to score their first win on the season. Now the Colts will try to build off their first taste of success when they host the Houston Texans for a primetime Thursday Night affair on the NFL Network.
Houston on the other hand will try to shake off a lackluster performance from the Carolina game and get back to their winning ways. The Texans still have a lot to play for as home field advantage in the playoffs is still in their grasp. Last week, the Texans number 1 defense was gashed for over 160 yards on the ground by that Panthers rushing attack. Not to mention the offense added to their troubles by turning the ball over on 3 different occasions. This week the Texans look for a much better overall performance as they look to rebound.
Houston's defense has been the key to their breakout success this year and it is rare to see a team run the ball against them like Carolina did a week ago. The Colts on the other hand have been ineffective for the majority of the year rushing the football averaging just 101 yards (23rd in NFL) per game. However, Indianapolis running back Donald Brown is coming off his biggest performance of the season last week against the Titans and perhaps has a little momentum on his side to battle the Texans. Last week, Brown carried the ball 16 times for a season high 161 yards and 1 score. Considering the constant troubles the Colts have had behind center this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see them keep the ball on the ground often again in hopes for another big performance by Brown.
If the Colts cannot get the ground game moving, they will let QB Dan Orlovsky attempt to target wide outs Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne down the field. Orlovsky has not put up tons of yards in the passing game since taking over the starting role but he has not been nearly as bad as Curtis Painter either. On the season, Orlovsky has completed 63% passing for 693 yards with 4 scores and 2 picks. The less the Colts have to use Orlovsky's arm will possibly better their chances but he is still a guy that can complete some of the short high percentage throws to spread the ball around.
The Colts will still ultimately need a solid defensive effort because they simply do not have the firepower to get into an offensive shootout. Still, the Texans have not been the offensive team they were earlier in the year before QB Matt Schaub was lost for the season. In the last 3 weeks, the Texans have averaged just 14 points per game and they have also given up 7 turnovers during that stretch. Rookie QB T.J Yates has not been able to hit the big passes down the field. Last week, Yates completed 19 of 30 passing for 212 yards without any touchdowns and 2 picks. As mentioned earlier, those turnovers are something that has plagued the team over the last several weeks and that will make a huge difference down the stretch if they continue.
Even with the passing troubles, the Texans have the best 1-2 punch in the entire NFL in the backfield in both Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Foster has been one of the top backs in the league the last few years and despite missing time earlier this year has already eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau. Tate has been a pleasant surprise this season in the backup role and has added 846 yards with 3 touchdowns on the year. If Tate can have a few more solid outings, the Texans could have two different 1,000 yard rushers for just the 7th time in league history.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: A rookie QB on the road, a team that's having turnover problems and having issues scoring the ball a 6 point favorite on the road? As tough as it is to say, the Colts are actually a value play here. I expect a tight game with the final score margin being 3 points. Which team wins is anyone's guess, but I do believe the Colts are a good play here.
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