The AFC South looks like it will have two teams representing the division in the playoffs, but in Week 15 on Sunday the Indianapolis Colts can take the first step towards making the race for the division itself interesting when they head to Houston to face the Texans.
Houston didn't look good in Monday night's loss to the New England Patriots, but they still hold the conference's best record and top seed. Win against the Colts, winners of three straight games, and the Texans can get back on the right track against a quality, playoff-caliber opponent.
Meet the Houston Texans
Plenty went wrong for the Texans in New England, but Houston can still wrap up the AFC South division title with a victory over Indianapolis. With 37.0 total sacks this season, the Texans are fourth in the league in that category and will likely look to make quarterback Andrew Luck very uncomfortable in their first meeting with the rookie signal-caller.
Houston fell behind too quickly to really get it going, but its rushing attack, led by running back Arian Foster, ranks eighth in the league with an average of 139.2 yards on the ground per game. Foster also has the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL with 14.
Meet the Indianapolis Colts
The Colts need to win all three of their remaining games, but they are still in contention to snatch the AFC South crown from the Texans. In addition, Sunday provides a stage for Indianapolis to make a statement, as to this point, their best victory of the season over a contending team is hard to spot on the schedule.
Winners of three contests in a row, Indianapolis is fifth in the AFC and presently well-positioned to make the playoffs with a rookie quarterback. Speaking of Luck, he has thrown for 3,792 yards -- good for eighth-best in the league -- with 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Local Takes: Texans
TexansDC from Battle Red Blog says the Colts may be the perfect team for the Texans to face coming off a loss:
"Houston, back in its hey day of dominating victories, did two things really well: Harass the quarterback and run the ball, which set up a knockout play-action bootleg pass or two, but the running was key. Indianapolis has struggled at two things all season: protecting Andrew Luck andstopping running backs. It is a match made in the dreams of many in the Energy Capital of the World."
Local Takes: Colts
Matt Grecco from Stampede Blue says Houston may just be too much for the Colts right now, but the experience could pay off in the future:
"If the Colts can hang around they'll have a chance, but the fact is the Texans are on a different level talent-wise, and we've seen what happens when the Colts have played playoff-caliber teams. This will be a great trial-run for a playoff game, as the atmosphere should be on that level. Hopefully the Colts can use the experience in a couple weeks when the games really matter."
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Andrew Luck was reportedly a party animal at The Blue Bird in Bloomington, IN last week, hanging out with musician Mat Kearney.— Brad Wells (BBS) (@StampedeBlue) December 12, 2012
@NickScurfield - Nick Scurfield, Texans insider for the team's website.
@pwilson24 - Phillip Wilson, sports writer for The Indianapolis Star.
Believe it or not, the Colts can still win the AFC South. Doing so would require winning out, which would mean beating the Texans twice. Even though Houston was lit up on the big stage last Monday, they're an elite team this season. Only two teams with arguably the two best quarterbacks -- Packers and Patriots -- have beaten the Texans. Andrew Luck's not ready for that yet.
The pick: 30-23, Texans.
Houston began the week as eight-point favorites, according to OddsShark, and the line has moved even further in their direction, as it currently favors the Texans by 9½. As far as the over/under point total for the contest, 48 was the number to start the week and that hasn't changed yet.
In Week 16, stay home as they host the always-dangerous Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon. The Colts, however, will stay on the road as they head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs on Dec. 23.