HOUSTON — After a three-year absence, the Indianapolis Colts are back in the postseason. They take on the Houston Texans — a team they are mighty familiar with — in today's first-ever matchup between AFC South opponents in the playoffs.
This will be the third time the two teams have squared off this season, with each team winning at the other team's home stadium; today's matchup is taking place in Houston at NRG Stadium.
This matchup kicks off the NFL's playoffs, so all eyes will be on these two teams. Here is what people are saying ahead of the matchup.
Colts head coach Frank Reich on the effect of playing an opponent in the playoffs who you faced in the regular season:
"I mean I think there are pros and cons to it. I have faced it as a player and coach several times, so it is not that uncommon. Like I said, there are pros and cons. You know them well and they know you well. So you have to fight to find ways to make slight changes but don't go crazy. You've got to avoid the mistake of 'Hey, we've got to be drastically different just because they know us.' At the end of the day, you have to do what got you here but then you still have to have a few new wrinkles, a few un-scouted looks to keep them guessing a little bit."
Reich on how many wrinkles you can implement for this familiar opponent, and likewise what they expect from Houston:
"I think it will be a little bit of both and sometimes the wrinkles – wrinkles can be really small. It can just be a personnel change. You can run the same play and put different people in there and to the defense, it is like, 'Hey, they might be running this but the last time they ran this they had two guys here and now it is two different guys.' So it can be as little as something like that to a different formation or a motion or a shift. Or a little wrinkle can be 'Hey, we are going to make it look like this run but then we are really going to throw a play-action off of it. We are going to give it the exact same set and formation of a successful run that we had last time and then we are going to throw this play.' Just little wrinkles like that. I mean it is common but I always think you still got to be who you are. I mean you have your core plays, it is 80 percent of what you do. That is obviously just an arbitrary number but it is 70 to 80 percent of what you do. You just got to keep doing it, do it better, execute it and trust your guys to make plays. What I have experienced over the years is keep running the same plays over and over again and your good players figure out how to make them work. They know how to get open. The quarterback figured out every little nuance of how to read it versus every kind of coverage, every kind of leverage from a defender and there just gets to be a confidence in the play and in the players."
Reich on the fact that the Colts only have 15 players on the roster with playoff experience and if he had to address that:
"I think there is something to be said for the experience and you share that. I actually had Vinny (Adam Vinatieri) share a couple things with the guys today in our team meeting. I texted Vinny last night. Just going into it I was sitting around thinking, 'Okay, how many playoff games has he played?' And Matt (Conti) did the research for me, it was 30 (games). So I said, 'Alright, tell me Vinny what have you learned?' So the message that he sent me I thought was vintage and we shared that with the team this morning and had Vinny share a few extra thoughts on that. A lot of wisdom in what he was saying."
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on if the Colts need to compensate for their lack of playoff experience:
"No, I don't think you need to compensate for a roster that does not have playoff experience because it's still a football game. It is a 60-minute game. The same rules apply. We have been in this mode for a while now so I think that bodes well for our team."
Colts rookie offensive guard Quenton Nelson on how fortunate he feels to be playing in the postseason as a rookie:
"I don't know. I understand it's really hard to get to the playoffs. I mean the last time the Colts went to the playoffs was 2014 I think. (Anthony) Castonzo hasn't been there for a while, some other guys haven't been there for a while, veterans on our team. Me personally, this being my first year and us making playoffs, definitely super happy about it but I probably don't appreciate it as much as the veterans do that understand how hard it is to make the playoffs on a yearly basis."
Colts tight end Eric Ebron on having a short turnaround, playing their last game last Sunday night:
"We are just going to have to get through it. Our motto is 1-0 and really that's how we are going to take it. But really if you think about it in perspective, you only have four games left if you want to make it to the big show. So whatever you got, everything you got, whatever hurts is going to hurt (and) it's not going anywhere. You just got to go out there and give it your all."
Reich on the keys to slowing down Texans Pro-Bowl defenders Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt:
"I think the biggest way is you have to mix it up. You don't want to get in one mode, you know? Great players like that you have to attack in multiple ways. You've got to be able to run the football, you don't want to get in just a pass mode, you've got to be able to chip some, you've got to be able to use your play-action, you've got to be able to change some things up formationally like that to present different looks for them. So I think the key is mixing all those up together."
Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on whether it gives him confidence or concern that they were able to contain Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in their last meeting:
"It's a more of a concern. When you are dealing with one of the best players in the league, just his skill set, it's a concern. It's an attention that everybody has to have their attention to that man because he's so good. They have a few players like that on their offense. So it's a big challenge for our defense for sure."
Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph on Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton's comments following the Colts' Week 14 win, joking Houston's NRG Stadium is his second home:
"Sounds good. It's easy to say it. I can easily say that too. We can call this division our division, since I've been here, the last five out of eight years, however y'all wanna draw it up."
Joseph on if it fires the Texans up:
"Nah, that's for clowns, man. That's for TV. That's what they do. When you put something in their face, anybody can say it."
Former Colts head coach and current analyst Rick Venturi on the Hilton-Joseph rivalry, **per 1070 The Fan**:
"Johnathan Joseph can say what he wants, but T.Y. Hilton has him on his IRS tax form."
**SB Nation** on the Colts-Texans matchup:
"If you go by our picks, this is the toughest game to get a handle on this week. The panel is split on who's going to win this one. The Colts squeaked by, 24-21, when these two teams played last month, in Week 14. If you buy into momentum, the Colts are riding a four-game win streak. The Texans, after an impressive nine-game win streak that started with an overtime win against these Colts back in Week 4, are 2-2 over their last four games.
But here's a stat that should catch your eye: the Texans are 1-5 in their last six games at home against the Colts."
**ESPN evaluators** on the Colts-Texans matchup:
"The Texans are strong at quarterback, strong on defense and have home-field advantage for this game, which was enough for all three insiders to pick them even though they like what Indy has going..." (Click above for more)
**ESPN's Warren Sharp and Preston Johnson** on the Colts-Texans matchup:
Sharp: "The Texans and Colts are in different positions as they head into the postseason. The Texans are stumbling into the playoffs, having lost two of their final four games, with a comeback victory over the New York Jets and a win over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts are the hot team, having won four straight..."
Johnson: "My projections for this AFC wild-card game are Texans -1.7 with a total of 48.2. These teams rank so similarly offensively and defensively that it is hard to find an angle that gives either side a significant advantage outside of the fact the game is being played in Houston. The Texans' biggest strength this season was their ability to limit their opponents' rushing attack (3.4 yards per carry, which ranked No. 1 in the NFL). Well, the Colts do their damage through the air, ranking in the bottom third in the league in yards per carry, rushing yards percentage and rushing play percentage..." (Click above for more)