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Wild Card Preview: Colts at Texans Breakdown and Picks

Wild Card Preview: Colts at Texans Breakdown and Picks
Scott Engel Managing Director January 4, 2019 10:30AM EDT

Matchup Analysis, Fantasy Picks and more for Colts-Texans

The Colts are 3-3 during the postseason during the Andrew Luck era that began in 2012, and head coach Frank Reich was the offensive coordinator during Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run last season. Luck has won two of three Wild Card Games and took the Colts to the AFC Championship Game in 2014 as they won on the road in the Divisional Round at Denver. Luck has not been consistent during the postseason so far, with nine TD passes and 12 interceptions. Six of those picks were in two losses at New England. He threw for 863 yards in two games vs, Houston this year with four of his six TD passes against the Texans coming in a home loss early in the season.

Bill O’Brien has lost two of three postseason games in his previous four seasons as the Texans head coach, but this will be his first with a true QB weapon such as Deshaun Watson. O’Brien’s quarterbacks in his previous playoff appearances were Brock Osweiler and Brian Hoyer. Watson threw for 375 yards and rushed for 61 while totaling three scores in his first meeting with the Colts this year (Week 4). In the Week 14 rematch in Houston, he threw for 267 yards and one TD with 35 rushing yards as the Colts won to split the season series. Both teams won by three points in each game.

The Colts have won three of the last four games in the series and have taken 26 of 34 matchups between the teams overall. They come in as one of the hottest teams in the league, having won nine of their last 10 during the regular season. Houston won six of eight home games while the Colts were 4-4 on the road this year. They did win three of their final four road games, though, including a decisive victory at Tennessee to clinch a playoff berth. Indianapolis ranked fifth in points scored while Houston ranked fifth in points allowed. The Colts ranked sixth in passing yards per game while the Texans were 28th in passing yards allowed, so Indianapolis should have the advantage there. The Texans, however, were plus-13 in takeaways, best in the AFC, while the Colts were only plus-two.

Pass protection could be a difference here, though. The Colts’ pass blocking has been vastly improved, and Luck has been sacked a league-low 18 times, six by Houston in two meetings. Watson has been sacked an NFL-high 62 times and was dropped 12 times in two games by the Colts this season. DE Denico Autry had four of his nine 2018 sacks against the Colts. The Texans may have to establish the ground game to ease some pressure on Watson early and also keep the Colts offense off the field as much as possible.

The Colts ranked eighth against the run with 101 yards per game allowed, and Lamar Miller rushed for just 82 yards on 28 carries against them this year. If the Texans cannot get Miller going again, much will fall on Watson in his first postseason game, and he has shown he can carry this offense if needed. But a good outing from Miller would pave an easier path to victory.

No opponent can fully contain DeAndre Hopkins, so his presence will ensure that Houston keeps pace with Indianapolis. Arguably the best wide receiver in the game right now, he caught 10 balls for 169 yards and a TD in the first meeting, and while he was held to 36 yards on four catches in the second meeting, he still found the end zone. In three playoff games, Hopkins has caught 17 passes for 201 yards and a TD. We should expect better in the 2018 playoffs as he has evolved into maybe the most unstoppable WR force in the game. The Colts did not assign a singular CB to him this season and will likely offer safety help wherever he lines up. CBSSports.com noted that Hopkins had a dozen catches of 20-plus yards this season, and three came against the Colts for 84 yards.

Where else Watson can go with the ball is uncertain, and the team is hoping to have Keke Coutee back from a lingering hamstring issue. Coutee has practiced in full this week and is expected to play. He could be a good outlet for Watson on important downs if he looks close to full health. Indianapolis ranked 16th in passing yards per game allowed. They only allowed 182 rushing yards to opposing QBs, sixth best in the league, so they may be ready for some Watson scrambles.

The Texans are sturdy against the run, having allowed just 82 rushing yards per game, third-best in the league, They held Marlon Mack to 33 yards on 14 carries in the second meeting. But if Luck is forced to throw the ball too many times, he can be successful against a pass defense that was absolutely torn up by T.Y. Hilton this season. Luck also does a great job of spreading the ball around to his secondary targets.

In the first meeting this year, Luck completed 40 passes to eight different receivers, and Hilton finished with 114 yards. In the second meeting he completed 27 passes to six receivers, and Hilton had his best game of the year with nine catches for 199 yards. Charles Rogers caught 13 passes in the two matchups. Eric Ebron caught four passes for 65 yards and a TD in the second meeting. Dontrelle Inman scored in each of the Colts’ final two regular season games.

FANTASY TAKES: Luck is a good pick to play two or three games for Fantasy Football Playoff purposes and could be the best option other than Patrick Mahomes in draft leagues. Run Luck and Hilton together in competitive high stakes formats as a potential difference-making combo. Ebron is an obvious TD force with the potential to play two games. Inman has played admirably through a shoulder issue and has some deep potential. Mack will be a regular TD threat even if his yardage totals fluctuate. Watson was the fourth-best QB in Fantasy this year and is a safer pick, and Hopkins is clearly the best WR to take. Miller is an unreliable pick better suited for DFS.

DFS VIEWS: On the FanDuel Saturday slate, Luck is $400 cheaper than Watson at 8,400 and is the preferred pick there. Miller is the cheapest of the four starting RBs on Saturday at $6,400 and should be your contrarian play. Hilton, at $7.900, is $1,600 cheaper than Hopkins and has more yardage upside, but less TD promise for sure. I would have to recommend spending up for Hopkins for a much better chance of a TD or two. Inman is an alluring pick at $5,500. Ebron is the top TE at $6,600 and almost seems unavoidable with Dallas’ Blake Jarwin being just 800 less as the next best TE. On the full DraftKings weekend slate, Watson and Luck are the two highest priced QBs and you may be better off going down the ladder a bit. Miller is an interesting tournament value at $4,900. Hopkins and Hilton are the two highest priced WRs and I like spending up for Nuk there, too. I would target Inman at $4,300 and Rogers is a nifty punt play at 3,300. Ebron is $1,200 less than Zach Ertz at 5,200 and worth spending a bit less on.

GAME PREDICTION: The Colts ended Houston’s nine-game winning streak in their second meeting, and I believe they prevail again in another close one. Their ability to protect Luck and attack the Houston pass defense with multiple targets will be the difference late in the game. I like the Colts to cover (+1) and I’ll take the over. Colts 27, Texans 24 on an Adam Vinatieri game-winner.

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