The Colts had their play-in playoff game last week and beat the Titans to secure their 2019 Wild Card betting match-up with the Texans. Indianapolis and Houston split the season series, but these familiar AFC South division rivals have a bigger score to settle in the AFC playoffs.
NFL PLAYOFFS – AFC WILD CARD
Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Houston Texans (11-5)
Saturday, January 5th – NRG Stadium – 4:35pm ET
Odds: Houston -2 (48.5)
In the Dec. 9 meeting on this field, the Colts held off the Texans 24-21 as QB Andrew Luck passed for 399 yards and 2 touchdowns in victory. With the Texans winning the first meeting of the season at Indianapolis 37-34 in overtime on Colts coach Frank Reich’s controversial decision in overtime, this playoff match-up sets up as another close contest.
Through similar schedules, these two team’s points differentials are +86 and +89. The Colts have won 9-of-10 after starting the season 1-5 and miraculously rallied to make the playoffs. The Texans started 0-3 but went from worst to first in the AFC South after winning just 4 games last season. The Colts also won just 4 games last year, but were without QB Andrew Luck the entire season. Now the Colts catch the Texans for the second straight time without WR Will Fuller, and WR Demaryius Thomas will also miss this contest for Houston. The Colts limited Texans star WR DeAndre Hopkins to 4 catches on 10 targets for 36 yards in the Dec. 9 meeting.
During the Texans’ 9-gaming winning streak this season, they did not beat a team with a winning record. In fact, the Texans were just 3-4 ATS against teams that finished the season with a winning record and out-gained them by 14 yards. It took the Colts to snap the Texans’ winning streak in early December, and Indy was 5-2 ATS against winning teams this season and out-gained them by 57 yards per game, which is a strong reason why some of they’re getting attention in 2019 Wild Card betting.
Along with the Comeback Player of the Year performance of QB Andrew Luck, the Colts defense has also made significant strides over the latter part of the season, and Indianapolis’s 5.5 yards per play defense nearly equals the Texans’ 5.4. Houston QB Deshaun Watson has also been sacked a league-high 62 times (most in NFL since 2006), as his decision-making, quick reads, and release is not as decisive as his counterpart Andrew Luck, who has been sacked a league-low 18 times. The Colts defense sacked Watson five times in that Dec. 9 contest, and while Houston still has the stronger running game and balance on offense, note that the Texans have been out-gained in four of their last five games to close the regular season.
While controlling the ball, clock and chains and both running the ball and stopping the run is important in pro football, the playoffs one and done format requires teams to convert key thrd down plays and have quarterbacks that can pass effectively and make plays.
Controlling the ball, while maintaining possession, is essential in pro football. The playoffs, however, are a different animal with pressure maxed out thanks to the one-and-done format. Converting third downs at key moments is essential, and true contenders need to have quarterback that can make big plays when they’re needed most.
Key Stats and ATS: Prior to the Super Bowl, playoff teams that average more yards per pass attempt than their opponent are 98-65 ATS (60%).
The Texans and QB Watson averaged 7.5 yards per pass while the Colts and QB Luck averaged 6.9. But Luck led the Colts to four straight wins to close the season while averaging 8.2 yards per pass. Tough call, and the money is nearly an even split on the two sides while OVER the total is taking more bets than any of the four playoff games this weekend.
2019 Wild Card Betting Free Pick – Indianapolis Colts +2.0
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.