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T.N.F. Bout to Propel Victor Towards AFC South Crown

The battle for the AFC South continues on Thursday Night Football as the Houston Texans (6-4) host the visiting Indianapolis Colts (6-4) in a week 12 rematch between contemptuous division rivals.

Playoff Implications: The outcome will catapult the victor to the top of the division. At the moment the Patriots (9-1) and Ravens (8-2) sit atop the entire AFC through week 11. Currently, the Colts hold the 4th seed in the AFC playoff picture while the Texans have slid into the 6th seed wild card position. Indianapolis holds the advantage in terms of the tiebreaker and is ahead of Houston in the AFC South based on a head to head victory earlier this season. The Colts are also 3-0 in the AFC South. The Oakland Raiders sit at 6-4, but are currently in the hunt due to a head to head loss vs. Houston.

History: The Colts have won the previous three meetings. A week 7 victory at home in Indianapolis (23-30) this season and a (21-7) playoff road thrashing last season with Andrew Luck at the helm were the most recent. The Colts also beat the Texans at the end of the regular season in 2018 to the tune of 24-21. Diving all the way back into 2017, the Texans have only beaten the Colts one time in their last 6 meetings, a 37-34 overtime victory in Indy back in September of 2018.

Key Players:

Colts

Expect T.Y. Hilton to suit up. The Colts #1 wide out has missed the last 3 games with a calf injury, but wouldn’t miss this juicy match-up against a depleted Texans secondary, a team that he has had huge success against in the past. In 15 career games vs. Houston Hilton has amassed 82 receptions for 1,519 yards and 10 scores. In week 7 vs the Texans Hilton went 7/64/1. Hilton’s splits in Houston include 46 receptions for 1,018 yards in 8 career games.

With Marlon Mack out with a hand fracture, it will be up to the trio of Jordan Wilkins, Jonathan Willimas and Nyheim Hines to try to get the ground game moving against a J.J. Watt-less Texans defensive front that has allowed an average of 408 combined yards (run/pass) per game since Watt’s departure from the team.

Darius Leonard will track and spy on Deshaun Watson, like he has in previous match ups. This clearly limits Watson’s rushing floor as Leonard has the wheels to close the distance on the elusive signal-caller.

Justin Houston has had a sack in 6 games straight. Deshaun Watson was grounded 7 times last week vs. the Ravens.

Texans

Deandre Hopkins has had six straight games in which he has totaled 7 receptions or more and has had a minimum of 11 targets in the last 5 games. Pierre Desir is the top DB for the Colts but he does not play shadow coverage. Hopkins should see upwards of 9 targets, even if Will Fuller is back on the field.

Deshaun Watson has finished with 308 yards (1 TD), 267 (1), and 375 (2) over the course of his last 3 meetings with the Colts, with 1 score on 108 rushing yards to boot.

Will Fuller might be in line to play. He did not finish the week 7 contest vs the Colts as he exited due to injury. The Colts have only allowed 4 plays of 40 or more yards through the air this season, so it will not be an easy task for Fuller to get behind the defense, especially after returning from a lengthy injury.

Keke Coutee had a rough stretch of play where he committed several mental mistakes that ultimately forced the coaching staff to bench him for two games this season. In week 7 versus the Colts he had an egregious drop that led to an interception on what would have been a comeback drive late in the 4th quarter of that game. Coutee returned to the lineup last week notching 3 receptions for 25 yards.

Trends/Stats:

  • The Colts have turned the football over at least once in seven straight games
  • Only one QB has thrown from multiple scores vs the Colts since week 3
  • The Colts have held opposing RBs to to less than 13 PPR points in all but one game since week 2
  • Since week 4 QB Jacoby Brissett has had only one game in which he has thrown multiple TDs (he threw 326 and 4 vs. Hou earlier this yr) and WR Zach Pascal is the only 100 yard receiver allowed by the Texans since week 3
  • 5 of the last 6 QBs the Texans have faced have thrown for 3 or more scores
  • Deandre Hopkins has caught five or more passes in all 10 games he has played this season. The only other WR to join him in this feat is the Saints Michael Thomas
  • Colts are the currently the 4th ranked rushing offense in the NFL, but will be without starting RB Marlon Mack who suffered a fractured hand
  • The Texans are still the 5th ranked rushing defense despite giving up their first 100 yard rusher in since the 2017 season last week vs. the Ravens

Predictions: Stating that this is a huge game for both squads is a colossal understatement. The Texans were downright embarrassed last week vs. the Ravens and the focus would be to bounce-back hard, especially offensively, against a familiar foe. The Colts will be limping in offensively, despite notching a win last week, as they will be without the services of Marlon Mack, who will not be with the team on the short turn-around after fracturing his right hand. Colts QB Jacoby Brissett has been average at best as of late and the team had been leaning heavily on the run game for success during that time. Both teams have injuries in the secondary, if the Texans can get going early, expect both squads to air it out and reach the 45.5 implied point total rather easily. The Texans are favored by 3.5 at home. Having already lost the first meeting, Houston would be hard pressed not to sell-out and rise to the occasion for the win on Thursday.

Colts Injuries:

OUT: WR Parris Campbell (fractured hand), RB Marlon Mack (fractured hand), CB Shakial Taylor (ankle), S Khari Willis (concussion) have all been ruled out for Thursday.

Questionable: WR T.Y. Hilton, TE Mo Alie-Cox, TE Eric Ebron, CB Rock Ya-Sin are listed as questionable.

Texans Injuries:

OUT: CB Lonnie Johnson (foot/ankle), S Justin Reid (concussion), Mike Adams (concusssion)

Questionable: WR Will Fuller (hamstring), CB Bradley Roby (hamstring), Teshaun Gipson (back)

Follow Miles @FF_Peacock on Twitter

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