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Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans Wildcard Pick

by | Last updated Jan 3, 2019 | nfl

Indianapolis Colts (10-6 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) vs. Houston Texans (11-5 SU, 7-8-1 ATS)

Date/Time: Saturday, January 5, 4:35 PM EST
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

Point Spread: Ind + 2.5 / Hou -2.5
Over/Under Total: 47.5

The NFL Playoffs kick off in Houston on Saturday with an AFC South battle between the Indianapolis Colts and Division Champ Houston Texans. This will be the third time these teams have faced off this season with each team winning by a field goal on the others home field. Sportsbooks have made the Texans 2½ point favorites, and the play is to take the Colts and the points. Here is the handicap.

Indy Offense vs. Houston Defense

It will be strength versus strength when Indy has the ball. The Colts offensive line that has become one of the best in the league will line up against the Texan defensive line that is definitely one of the best. Indy has allowed the league fewest 18 sacks for the season, but 6 of those came in the 2 games with the Texans. The Texans D has allowed the fewest yards per rush in the league and only 8 rushing touchdowns on the year. They allowed the Colts just 91 yards on 40 carries in the 2 contests against Indy. These stats would make it appear that the Texans have had the best of this war in the trenches, but Andrew Luck has been the great equalizer. He lit up the Texan secondary for 464 yards in week 4 and then 399 in week 14. Luck completed 65% of his attempts against Houston and compensated for the lack of a running game through the short passing games to his running backs and tight ends to record 52 first downs.

Houston’s secondary is the weakness for this defense and will be exploited in this game. Houston allowed the 5th most passing yards for the season, despite playing against Blake Bortles twice, the Redskin combo of Alex Smith / Colt McCoy, and Nathan Pederman / Josh Allen combo for the Bills. Baker Mayfield threw for 397 yards in week 13, and Nick Foles threw at will against Houston in week 16 on his way to 471 yards. The Colts offense ranks 6th in total passing yards and averages 280 yards per game. Houston has nobody in the defensive backfield that can match up with T.Y. Hilton who amassed 314 yards in the 2 Houston games. Luck has elevated Eric Ebron’s game to that of a pro bowl tight end by tossing him 13 touchdown passes and the Colts three-man running back committee caught 96 balls on the season.

Indy is going to score in this contest. Their projected team total by the line is 22, and it would be shocking if they don’t reach that number. Over the 9-1 stretch, Indy had eclipsed 22 points in every game except when Jacksonville blanked them in week 13 and Houston does not have the defense to slow them down.

Houston Offense vs. Indy Defense

Houston’s offensive line is the opposite of the Colts. The Texans O-line allowed 62 sacks on the year – the most of any team and there would have been many more if not for Deshaun Watson’s elusiveness. The line did improve their run blocking as the year went on and the team finished in the top 10 in rushing yards. Lamar Miller carried the load in the backfield finishing just under 1000 yards on the season while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Watson also did his part on the ground gaining 551 yards. One negative of the Texan run game is that they only scored 12 rushing touchdowns.

Of course, the Texan offense is all about Watson. He was absolutely brilliant this year throwing for over 4000 yards and 26 touchdowns to only 9 interceptions. In the last 10 weeks of the year, Watson threw 17 TDs and just 2 picks, both of which happened in mid-November. Watson was second to only Drew Brees with 5 4th quarter comebacks, and the Texans know if they can keep the game close Watson will work his magic in the end. Generally, Watson’s partner in magic is wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was 3rd in receptions, 2nd in receiving yards and 5th in receiving touchdowns on the year. He catches 70% of his targets and seemingly 100% of the targets that he can get a hand on. Behind Hopkins, the receivers are thin in Houston. Will Fuller opened the year as the No. 2 but tore his ACL in week 8. Demaryius Thomas was brought in to fill the gap, but he tore his Achilles in week 16. Rookie Keke Coutee is now the number 2, but he has only played 6 games and is questionable this week, and the running backs offer little support in the passing game.

Indy’s defense stacks up well with Houston. They held Watson to only 53 total rushing yards in their 2 games and only 12 yards in week 14. Hopkins was limited to 4 catches for 36 yards in the week 14 game. The Colts defense has improved throughout the year and limited 4 of the last 7 opponents to under 300 yards. They have the team speed to keep Watson under wraps and defensive rookie of the year candidate Darius Leonard makes tackles all over the field. Watson will create some magic and put some points on the board, but they will have to earn every yard and point they get.

The Intangibles are with the Colts

The 2.5 point line implies these teams are equal the Texans are favored just because they are at home and most of the stats including the scores of the first 2 games support that this is an even match up. But some key stats give an edge to Indy. Indy converted 48% of the 3rd downs compared to only 37% for Houston and Indy converted 68% of red zone opportunities into touchdowns compared to only 50% for Houston. On the defensive side of the ball, the teams both allow 40% of 3rd downs to be converted, but Houston allows touchdowns on 70% of red zone visits compared to only 53% for Indy. These are the money down, and money plays that will determine who wins this game and they favor Indy.

Indy has beaten Houston 8 of their last 12 games. Luck has won 3 playoff games, and this will be Watson’s first game in the postseason. While Luck has multiple weapons that he can utilize, and the Texans will have to stop, Hopkins is the only receiver that Indy will have to be concerned about. The Colts have covered the spread in 3 of their last 4 games while Houston has only covered 1 of their last 4. Indy went on the road last week and won what was basically a playoff game so they will be ready on Saturday.

Play the Road Dogs to Open the Playoffs

When the playoffs kick off in Houston on Saturday, the Colts should win this game, but the play is to take them and the 1.5 points against the Texans. Need another account for betting online? Don’t know the difference between a free play and a cash bonus? We explain both plus info on rollovers and payouts with our expert guide to sportsbook bonuses.

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