HOUSTON TEXANS (12-3)
at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-5)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Houston -6.5, Total: 41.5
Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano makes his return after a three-month absence due to leukemia when his playoff-bound Colts try to salvage a series split with the struggling Texans.
Not many would have expected this scenario three weeks ago, but it's the Texans who are actually the team that has something to play for in this one. Houston still has to win to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while the Colts are locked into the No. 5 seed. Houston is 6-1 SU and 4-3 ATS on the road this season. These teams just met in Houston in Week 15, with the Texans jumping out early and hanging on for a 29-17 win. They outgained the Colts 417-272 in the game. RB Arian Foster had 165 rushing yards in that victory, but missed most of last week’s loss to Minnesota because of an irregular heartbeat. He reportedly had been cleared medically to re-enter that game, which wound up being a 23-6 home defeat.
Can the Texans sew up the top seed in the AFC with a key road win? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
The Texans can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but a loss could make them the No. 3 seed and force them to play again next week. Their offense really sputtered, both with and without Foster, last Sunday against the Vikings. Their six points were a far cry from their average of 27 PPG this season and Foster (1,328 rush yards, 2nd in NFL) was held to 15 yards on 10 carries. But he has destroyed the Colts in his career, averaging 164 rushing YPG, including 165 yards just two weeks ago. His Houston squad still averages 134 rushing YPG, while the Colts give up a hefty 139 rushing YPG on 5.1 yards per carry. Indy was gashed for 352 rushing yards on 8.0 YPC by the Chiefs last Sunday. The Colts pass defense is pretty average (236 YPG, 7.1 YPA), and will need to find a way to slow down Texans star WR Andre Johnson who leads the AFC with 1,457 receiving yards. Johnson caught 11 passes for 151 yards in the game versus Indy two weeks ago. Despite the offensive talent, Houston is a dreadful 25.5% on third downs in December, going 1-of-11 in the loss to Minnesota last week.
Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano will return to the sidelines for the first time since Week 3. He has big shoes to fill though, as the Colts are 8-2 SU under interim coach Bruce Arians. But they have been shaky in the past two games, losing by a dozen points to Houston and then nearly falling to lowly Kansas City, pulling out a late TD for a 20-13 victory. Andrew Luck surpassed the 4,000-yard passing plateau last week, establishing a new NFL rookie record for a single season. Despite the gaudy yardage, Luck has thrown more incomplete passes than completions in the past four games. Two weeks ago in Houston, he connected on just 13-of-27 throws for 186 yards and 2 TD. He was also sacked five times against the excellent Texans defense that is anchored by DL J.J. Watt who has 20.5 sacks this year, two off the NFL single-season record. Houston did a nice job on star WR Reggie Wayne (107 catches) two weeks ago limiting him to 14 yards on three catches. The Texans pass defense has been OK (228 pass YPG allowed), but that's nothing compared to Houston's run-stop unit's 99 rushing YPG allowed (4.2 YPC). Turnovers could also play a big role in this game, as Houston sits at +14 for the season while Indianapolis has a minus-14 turnover ratio.