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The AFC Wild Card Game on Saturday afternoon features the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans. They split the regular season games with each team winning on the road. Foreshadowing or anomaly?
The Colts come into this game red hot, winning 9 of their last 10 games. There were many questions surrounding quarterback Andrew Luck’s return. They have been answered emphatically as Luck has been outstanding.
The defense has improved as the season went on led by rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. The Texans have cooled off after winning nine straight, finishing 2-2. Quarterback Deshaun Watson has been spectacular coming back from his own injury. His main weapon, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, has taken his game to the next level. The defense looks to get back to it’s disruptive, pressuring ways.
Keys To The Game
The Colts must protect Andrew Luck and give him time in the pocket. In their Week 14 victory over the Texans, Luck carved up Houston’s secondary to the tune of 399 yards. Wide receiver TY Hilton was unstoppable with 9 catches for 199 yards. Can they duplicate this game plan again? The defense held wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in check and stuffed the running game.
The Texans must get running back Lamar Miller going to keep the Colts’ defense honest. DeShaun Watson was accurate last outing but couldn’t produce any big plays. The Colts sat back in a cover two zone and dared them to run. This will be a chess match and Houston must be better. No matter what the offense does, the defense must show up. They couldn’t get any pressure on Luck and paid dearly.
The X-factor for the Colts is their offensives tackles against the Texans edge rushers, JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Forcing Houston to rush extra players will open up big play opportunities. If they keep Luck clean and upright, they will have a chance to win.
The X-factor for the Texans is their cornerbacks against the Colts wide receivers. This was a complete mismatch last game. It seemed like receivers were running open all over the field. Some pressure up front would help but the secondary must communicate better and be fundamentally sound.
As hot as Indianapolis is coming into this game, Houston will come to play and draw energy from a playoff juiced crowd. Look for Watson and Hopkins to connect on some big plays in a Texan victory.