Houston Texans (6-7 SU, 6-7 ATS) vs. Indianapolis Colts (6-7 SU, 6-7 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 1PM EST
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: HOU pk/IND pk
Over/Under Total: 41
The Houston Texans come to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Indianapolis Colts in AFC South action on Sunday. This division is still up-for-grabs, with the Colts and Texans knotted up at the top of the division at 6-7, with the Jaguars a game behind at 5-8. The winner of this game will get a leg up, as this week is really important for both teams. Its just not known how effective they can be at this point in the season, with injuries having derailed both teams. Indy fell woefully short on Sunday, losing to the Jags, 51-17. And Houston, red-hot a few weeks ago, dropped their second in a row on Sunday in a 27-6 letdown against the visiting Patriots.
These AFC South teams already played this season, with Indy beating the Texans on the road, 27-20. A lot has changed since that meeting; as Houston went on to win 5 of their next 6 games, while Indy floundered some. But Indy did get a good game from both Matt Hasselbeck and Frank Gore in the first go-around, with old Texans standout Andre Johnson scoring two TDs for the Colts in some of his only real production of the season. Again, there might be some hints from that game, but both teams have gone through some different manifestations since that October 8 game. Both quarterbacks from the first matchup might not even be in this game.
Granted, Indy was facing a tough back-to-back road stretch, but losing to Pittsburgh and Jacksonville by the combined score of 96-26 in their last two games is a bitter pill to swallow and doesnt really foretell a positive conclusion to this season. Hats off to Matt Hasselbeck for keeping the Colts in it. He really surpassed expectations by starting off 4-0 as a starter, but the obvious drawbacks of not having Andrew Luck in there have begun to be felt. And for as good as the 40-year old has been, he is not a viable long-term solution and his play has fallen off, as hes now nursing sore ribs suffered in the loss last week, forcing Charlie Whitehurst to mop up.
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Hasselbecks status for Sunday is a bit dicey. Whitehurst is a veteran who knows what hes doing, though he seemed especially out-of-tune in limited time last week. Its doubtful he can make full use of this offense and he lacks the arm that Hasselbeck has, even at 40. But Hasselbeck is listed as probable and will likely at least give it a go. TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief (doubtful) offer hope and well see if they can get enough touches. Frank Gore is aging and you wonder if he can make a little surge late in the season, which would really help. Even with Luck in there, this offense has mostly been off-key, as offseason changes didnt materialize the way Indy had hoped. This is just not the state you want to see a team in as they make a late push to win the division.
An Indy defense that had been doing its best to keep it together despite a lack of support from the other side of the ball has officially fallen apart. Giving up 45 points to Pittsburgh is one thing, but getting run over by Jacksonville by allowing 51 points is a truly troubling sign. The Colts D has become increasingly leaky against both the pass and the run. Over the course of the season, theyve been making less plays, securing less turnovers, and are not applying as consistent a pass rush. Its not often that you see teams tied atop of their division with the leagues 26th ranked offense and 29th ranked defense. The Colts are averaging 21.2 points a game and giving up 27.4 a game.
Houston is in the same boat in a lot of respects, at least as far as it pertains to the QB position. Concussion issues have sidelined starter Brian Hoyer, who was playing well and helped Houston revive their season. Entering the season as a third-stringer, TJ Yates will take over the job this week at least. In his only other start of the season, he played capably in a win over the Jets in week 11, his only NFL start since 2011. Its not ideal, but again, Indy is also getting deep into the barrel as far as QBs go.
Houston was looking really good and hit a rough patch with a road game in Buffalo and then the game last week against the Patriots. Maybe being back in their division will help. After a 2-5 start, they really showed some inner-resource in rallying back to go to 6-5. But without Hoyer and even with him to some extent, this offense is pretty bare. They have a really good receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, with nice complimentary pieces in Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts, III. But not having Arian Foster in there really hurts, as their run-game is pedestrian in his absence. And with Yates in there, the worry is that well be seeing a pretty bland and flat Houston offense for the time being.
Houstons defense wasnt great against Indy in game one of the series this year, but theyve since shown flashes of playing much better. The secondary has whipped its act together, with Houston having the leagues third-ranked pass-defense. Its the leagues 7th ranked overall defense and its a playmaking one. They can be exploited on the ground, they can rush the passer. JJ Watt leads the way with 13.5 sacks, with Whitney Mercillus and even Jadeveon Clowney (questionable) adding some menace on the edges.
This is a tough one, as weve been forced to constantly re-assess these teams with all the impactful injuries. Its not completely clear what to expect from either offense. It just seems that Indy is a bit sideways heading into the final 3 games of the season, with their defense in absolute tatters. And I see the Houston defense as the deciding factor in a close game. Im taking the Texans.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Houston Texans in a pick em.
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