This game could prove to be the most entertaining contest of Wild Card Weekend, and perhaps even of the entire NFL playoff season.
The Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans are AFC South Division foes who know each other well, and that should limit the feeling out process in this one and set the two teams off after each other from the get-go.
A rivalry that stretches back to 2002, they’ve met on the gridiron 34 times, but this is the first time they’ll clash in the postseason. The Texans opened as two-point favorites.
Kickoff is set for 4:35 pm on Saturday, January 5th.
Frank Reich knows a thing or two about comebacks.
At Maryland, he engineered what was at the time the greatest single-game rally in NCAA history. With the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs, he came off the bench to replace injured starter Jim Kelly, and led the Bills back from a 32-point deficit to win 41-38 in the largest comeback in NFL history.
Oh, and the opponent that day? Houston – the Houston Oilers.
This season saw first-year head coach Reich and the Colts stage another amazing comeback. Opening the season 1-5, Indianapolis went 9-1 the rest of the way and clinched a playoff position with a Week 17 win at Tennessee.
Andrew Luck rolling out to his left is a thing of beauty.
— NFL (@NFL) December 31, 2018
The Colts joined the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals and 2015 Kansas City Chiefs as the only teams to rally from 1-5 start and reach the postseason since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
And interestingly, that Chiefs team beat the Texans in an AFC Wild Card game. The Bengals lost their first-round game – to the Colts.
The key to Indy’s rally and return to glory was the return to the lineup of QB Andrew Luck, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. Luck was fifth among NFL passers in yardage (4,593) and second with 39 TD passes.
Colts record with Andrew Luck healthy:
2012: 11-5, playoffs
2013: 11-5, playoffs
2014: 11-5, playoffs
2018: 10-6, playoffs
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) December 31, 2018
Colts rookie outside linebacker Darius Leonard led the NFL with 163 tackles, got to the QB seven times, forced four fumbles, and intercepted two passes.
Indy is the fifth-best scoring offense (27.1 PPG) but the Colts have also turned the ball over 24 times, tied with Chicago for the most among the 12 playoff teams.
Colts vs Texans Statistical Comparison
|27.1 (5)||PPG||25.1 (11)|
|386.2 (7)||YPG||362.6 (15)|
|107.4 (20)||Rushing YPG||126.3 (8)|
|278.8 (6)||Passing YPG||236.3 (17)|
|21.5 (10)||PPG allowed||19.8 (4)|
|339.4 (11)||YPG allowed||343.1 (12)|
|101.6 (8)||Rushing YPG allowed||82.7 (3)|
|237.8 (16)||Passing YPG allowed||260.4 (28)|
|+2 (T13)||Turnover differential||+13 (2)|
If Luck isn’t the NFL’s comeback player of the year, then it must be Texans defensive end JJ Watt.
After missing 24 games the previous two seasons with a herniated disc and broken tibia, Watt played all 16 games this season, finishing second in the NFL with 16 sacks, joining Reggie White as the only players in NFL history with at least four seasons of 15-or-more sacks.
Watt also forced a league-leading seven fumbles.
I guess J.J. Watt is still alright. pic.twitter.com/YbIR5IuWmX
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 30, 2018
Houston was 28th in the NFL at defending the pass (260.4 YPG) and Watt will be hard-pressed to get to Luck.
The Colts allowed an NFL-low 18 sacks this season, while Texans QB Deshaun Watson hit the dirt a league-leading 62 times, the most since Jon Kitna of the 2006 Detroit Lions suffered 63 sacks.
Watson was picked off nine times, but seven of those interceptions came in the first six games.
DeAndre Hopkins catches everything
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 30, 2018
Watson has a deep threat in WR DeAndre Hopkins, who was second in the NFL in receiving yardage (1,572) and fifth in TD catches (11). He caught 115 passes and had zero drops this season.
The Texans are the NFL’s eighth-best rushing team at 126.3 yards per game and Houston’s plus-13 turnover ratio is second in the league.
The teams split their two divisional games, Houston taking a 37-34 OT verdict in Week 4 at Indy, and the Colts winning 24-21 in Week 14 at Houston.
Indianapolis is 5-1 in its last six trips to Houston.