Despite very different offseasons in 2012, the Colts and the Texans will both be participating in the postseason in January. The Texans lost in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2011 and merely retooled for another postseason run in 2012, entering the season as huge favorites to win the AFC South. The Colts, however, finished 2011 as the NFL's worst team and completely rebuilt the team, beginning with first overall pick Andrew Luck as the centerpiece.
The offseason worked well for both teams as they've clinched their playoff berths, although the exact seeds have yet to be decided. For the Texans, a win in Indianapolis would ensure that they play all of their playoff games in Reliant Stadium, while the Colts can lock up the top wild card spot and a likely visit to play the Baltimore Ravens.
Meet the Colts
The offensive rookie of the year award is still open to debate and one of the top candidates is certainly first overall selection, Andrew Luck. The Colts quarterback broke the record for most passing yards in a season by a rookie in Week 16 and can add to his total against the Texans. He's made his name, though, with seven fourth quarter comebacks in 2012, tied for the most by a player in a season since 1970. Luck has been helped by wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who has had one of his best ever seasons at the age of 34 and is just 67 receiving yards away from passing Steve Largent for No. 13 on the all-time receiving list.
While Dwight Freeney has faded for the Colts after more than a decade of productivity with the team, Robert Mathis has picked up the slack with eight sacks in just 11 games. If he can manage to get to Matt Schaub twice on Sunday, he can record double-digit sacks for the fifth time in his career. In the secondary, Darius Butler has recorded a team-high four interceptions and recorded his second interception returned for a touchdown of the season in Week 16 to help the Colts get out to an early 7-0 lead against the Chiefs.
Meet the Texans
The Texans have already eclipsed the mark for the most wins in franchise history and can extend that by earning win No. 13 against the Colts on Sunday. Leading the way on offense is quarterback Matt Schaub who needs just 267 passing yards to throw for 4,000 in three of the last four seasons. But the Colts killer on the team has been running back Arian Foster, who has averaged 164 rushing yards in four games against Indianapolis.
Defensively, the player to watch is undoubtedly defensive end J.J. Watt, a legitimate contender, if not leader, for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award. With 20.5 sacks through the first 15 games, he would need 2.5 to surpass Michael Strahan's record for the most sacks in a single season, and although that sounds like a Herculean effort, he brought down Andrew Luck three times in the last matchup of the two teams.
Local Takes: Colts
Brad Wells from Stampede Blue says that Sunday's game against the Texans will likely be Dwight Freeney's last at Lucas Oil Stadium with the Colts.
Personally, I'd like to see Dwight retire a Colt, the same way it seems Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis will. However, 2012 is shaping up to be Dwight's worst statistical season of his career. Financially, it doesn't make sense to sign him to a contract with significant money after this season.
Local Takes: Texans
Tim from Battle Red Blog thinks the Texans will put the ball in the hands of their most consistent playmakers against the Colts.
What will not change from the last meeting of the Colts and the Texans? Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. The Texans will ride their stars. 'Dre finishes with 8 catches for 112 yards and a TD. Foster carries the ball 25 times for 104 yards and a TD. As Rivers and I discussed, I'm also optimistic that Kubes remembers he has tight ends who are more than capable of contributing in the passing game. Owen Daniels adds five receptions for 53 yards and a TD.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Stampede Blue and Battle Red Blog, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
My opinion: Pistol off is a gimmick in the NFL. Won't last two years. The new Wildcat. I could be wrong, but just don't see it sustaining.— Brad Wells (BBS) (@StampedeBlue) December 28, 2012
Colts beat writer, @MChappell51
You can tell it's Week 17 with glance at injury report. #colts list 14 players, Houston lists 21.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) December 28, 2012
Texans beat writer, @TaniaGanguli
There's a Segway lesson happening. And it's not going so well. #Texans— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) December 27, 2012
That's seven comeback wins for Andrew Luck this year. The Colts are in the playoffs, as are the Texans. Only playoff seeding is up in the air. Houston is trying to hang onto to the top seed in the AFC, securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After the Chiefs hung 350 rushing yards on the Colts, I'm curious what Arian Foster will do.
The pick: 30-20, Texans
Despite being the home team, the Colts opened as four-point underdogs and the line has increased to as much as a touchdown in most books, according to OddsShark.
Both teams have clinched spots in the playoffs, but the seeding has yet to be determined. The Texans can clinch a first round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win, while the Colts can lock up the top wild card spot and a likely trip to play the Baltimore Ravens with a victory.