The AFC South is up for grabs, and the two teams atop the division will battle tonight in Texas. The 6-4 Houston Texans host the 6-4 Indianapolis Colts in a huge Thursday night football game to kick off Week 12. Here is a preview for tonight’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
The Colts were hit hard late in the offseason with the news of Andrew Luck’s retirement. Under new starting QB Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis averages just 202.7 passing yards per game, the fifth-fewest in the NFL. But contrary to previous years, running the football has been no issue for the Colts, as they have had the fourth-most rushing yards per game at 141.1. In total, they’re 21st in total yards (343.8) and 16th in points (22.7).
The Colts have been steady on defense, sitting just outside of the top-10 in passing yards and total yards allowed. They also rank ninth in rushing yards allowed, and come in with 20.6 points allowed per game, 15th in the NFL.
Houston’s pros and cons are a little more lopsided. With Deshaun Watson behind center, the Texans put up the seventh-most yards in football with 380.2 per game. They’re also 10th in points with 24.5. Also surprisingly, much like the case with the Colts, a lot of the Texans’ success comes from running the ball, as they rank fifth in average rushing yards (140.7) compared to 14th in passing yards (239.5).
Injuries have played a role in the decline of Houston’s defense. They have been gashed against strong passing games, allowing the fourth-most passing yards per game with 273.1. Although they’ve been better against the run, the Texans still rank 25th with 374.4 total yards allowed and 19th with 23.2 points allowed.
1. Can Texans bounce back? In what was supposed to be the game of the week, the Texans were on the losing end of the blowout of the week on Sunday. Houston lost 41-7 to the Ravens, turning the ball over twice and allowing Deshaun Watson to get sacked six times. Meanwhile, the Colts come in off of a big victory, winning 33-13 over the Jaguars. There will be pressure on Watson and the Texans to respond with a win against not only a division rival, but also a team that’s in or near the top-10 in both run and pass defense. The Texans will also have to account for Justin Houston, Indy’s best pass-rusher, who has recorded a sack in six straight games.
2. Surviving without Mack. Last Sunday’s game versus Jacksonville wasn’t completely perfect for the Colts. Running back Marlon Mack suffered a fractured hand in the third quarter that will keep him out indefinitely. Mack had 862 yards rushing, leading a Colts running game that had gained the fourth-most average yards per game on the ground. In Mack’s absence, Indianapolis will rely on Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Williams and Jordan Wilkins to get carries out of the backfield against a defense that has been pretty solid this season against the run.
3. Battle of the QBs. In their Week 7 matchup last month, Brissett threw for a career-high four touchdowns against Houston as the Colts won 30-23. Meanwhile Watson was held in check, throwing for 308 yards but just one touchdown and two interceptions. Now with the game in Houston, Watson is hoping to avoid sacks and torch the Colts to reclaim first place. And with no Mack, it’s likely Brissett will have to put up a similar performance for Indy to have a chance at the season sweep.
For the Colts, we know Mack is out. The biggest question mark is T.Y. Hilton, who has missed the past three games but practiced in full on Wednesday. He is considered a true game-time decision. Tight end Eric Ebron and lineman Anthony Castonzo are also considered questionable, among others. As for the Texans, Tashaun Gipson and Will Fuller are the main starters who are questionable tonight. Cornerback Bradley Roby is also questionable. Both him and Gipson playing would be a huge boost for a Texans secondary that already has three players ruled out.
Odds and Pick
The Texans are the favorites at home tonight, listed at -3.5. This is a game that I believe will come down to the wire. Ultimately, the loss of Mack and the hobbled Hilton will affect Brissett too much, and I think Watson and the Texans will make all of the necessary adjustments from last week. I’m picking the Colts +3.5, but the Texans to win the game by a field goal.
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