INDIANAPOLIS — Well, Colts fans. Your team did it. After starting the season 1-5, the Colts won nine of their final 10 games to finish 10-6 and earn a wild card spot in the AFC playoffs. They take on the Houston Texans Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET.
The AFC South Division foes last battled four weeks ago, but some things have changed here and there. Let's take a look at the Colts' first playoff matchup since the 2014 season.
While the Texans already had a playoff spot clinched before last week's matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, they were still able to lose the division with a loss. Although it was an ugly game for both offenses — there were more field goals (three) than touchdowns (two) — the Texans prevailed, 20-3.
The Texans compiled 342 yards of offense and were 6-of-17 on third down (35.3 percent).
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was 25-of-35 passing (71.4 percent) for 234 yards and an 89.5 passer rating. Although he ran for one score, he did not throw any touchdowns or interceptions. He was sacked six times. With wide receiver Demaryius Thomas going down the prior week with an Achilles injury, DeAndre Hopkins once again dominated the competition, catching 12 balls for 147 yards.
Watson and running backs Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue combined to carry the ball 33 times for 134 yards (4.1 avg.) and two touchdowns.
Defensively, the Texans smothered Jacksonville, holding them to 119 yards of offense and 3-of-13 on third down (23.1 percent).
After being benched in Week 13, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles got the start in this one to close out the season, but it appeared to make no difference. He went 15-of-28 passing (53.6 percent) for just 107 yards and an interception, resulting in a 47.8 passer rating. He was sacked three times, 1.5 of them coming from defensive end J.J. Watt.
The Jacksonville run game was non-existent, as Bortles and running backs Carlos Hyde and David Williams combined for 16 carries for 30 yards (1.9 avg).
This being the third time these teams have faced off, you pretty much know what you're getting into. The Texans have a sometimes-explosive offense led by a quarterback in Watson who can also make plays with his legs. The defense is stout in the front seven but struggles in the back end at allowing big chunks of yardage.
In the two previous matchups, the teams average the following:
- Points: Colts — 29.0 PPG | Texans — 29.0 PPG
- Yards of offense: Colts — 457.0 YPG | Texans — 390.5 YPG
- Third down efficiency: Colts — 48.3% | Texans — 41.9%
- Red zone scoring: Colts — 100.0% | Texans — 75.0%
- Sacks: Colts — 6.0 | Texans — 3.0
- Takeaways: Colts — 0.5 | Texans — 1.5
The Colts' duo of quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton especially have had their way with Houston's defense in 2018. Luck has thrown for a combined 863 yards and six touchdowns against them while Hilton had 13 receptions for 314 yards.
The Colts' passing game has fired on all cylinders against Houston, but the Texans have held the Colts' run game in check. In the two previous contests, Colts running backs are averaging just 32.0 rushing yards per game, although Marlon Mack did not play in the Week 4 matchup due to injury.
The two teams have proven to be evenly matched offensively, although the Texans were without second receiver Will Fuller in Week 14 and are now without Thomas this week. If the Colts can control Hopkins like they did in Week 14 (four catches for 36 yards and one touchdown) then that will obviously increase their chances of coming out on top.
The Texans pose a challenge on the ground with Watson, Miller and Blue leading a top-10 run game, but the Colts have not allowed a single 100-yard rusher all year and rank eighth against the run game overall (101.6 YPG).
There are a couple key areas that could make a big difference on Saturday. The Colts' offense is fifth in red zone scoring (68.8 percent) going against the Texans defense, which is 29th (70.7 percent) defending inside the 20. Meanwhile, the Texans' offense ranks 28th in red zone scoring (50.0 percent) while Colts' defense is 11th (53.5 percent). Also, the Colts have allowed the fewest sacks (18) in the league while Texans have allowed the most (62). The Colts sacked Watson 12 times in their two prior meetings, so conventional wisdom says success in that area should continue.
These two teams have fought each other tooth and nail this year, and there's nothing to say this shouldn't be another excellent showdown.
2018 KEY STATS
- 2nd in turnover differential (+13) and tied-third in turnovers (16)
- 5th in passing yards per attempt (8.2)
- 6th in passer rating (102.9)
- 8th in rushing offense (126.3 YPG) and 4th in carries (29.5 avg)
- 20th in third-down offense (37%) and 6th in fourth-down offense (67%)
- 28th in red zone scoring (50.0%)
- 32nd in sacks allowed (62)
- 3rd in rushing defense (82.7 YPG)
- Tied-4th in scoring defense (19.8 PPG)
- 4th in takeaways (29)
- Tied-22nd in fourth-down defense (60%)
- 28th in passing defense (260.4 YPG)
- 29th in red zone scoring (70.7%)