The third meeting of the season is win or go home for the AFC South foes

Texans vs. Colts: An early look at the playoff matchup

Andrew Luck led the Colts to a win. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Texans will host the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card round this Saturday. It will be the third meeting this season between the two teams with each of them winning on the road in the regular season. Houston bested the Colts in late September with Indianapolis returning the favor by beating the Texans in early December.

The Overtime Oops

The first meeting saw a winless Texans team escape with what was the start of a nine-game winning streak. They were in position to avoid the tie and win thanks to Frank Reich and the Colts ineptitude in overtime. The Colts won the toss and their first drive ended deep in Texans territory with a drop on third down. They would kick the field goal. After the Texans answered with three of their own the Colts faced a 3rd and 21 thanks to a Jadeveon Clowney sack. Luck would hit his wideout for 17 yards.

It was then Frank Reich made a decision that certainly haunts him to this day. He decided to go for it on fourth down with four yards to go on their own 43. Luck's wideout ran a route a little too deep and couldn't come up with the low pass. The Texans would kick a field goal for a win three plays later.

The Colts erased an 18 point deficit with ease in the second half scoring on three of their four drives. The Texans managed just a field goal after their dominant opening drive out of halftime. Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 59-yard field goal as time expired but hit his other opportunities. The Colts had the Texans number in the second half but managed almost nothing on the ground against the Texans defense. It was all Luck and despite the loss one of the best games of his career. If the Colts didn't have five drops, two in overtime, they likely win this game and this weekend's game would be at Lucas Oil not NRG Stadium.

There's two sides to Reich's decision. One, if he doesn't do it and the Colts win the second game, like they did, they would be hosting the game as AFC South winners. The other side is the this helped galvanize the mentality of the Colts and endear the new head coach to his team. I find this angle hard to believe because they lost their next two before getting hot.

The End of the Streak

The final score and people getting angry at Jadeveon Clowney will make people think the game was a lot closer than it was but the Colts thoroughly outplayed the Texans at NRG stadium in the second meeting, ending the nine game winning streak. A huge second quarter where the Texans allowed 17 points and an answer immediately by the Colts, highlighted by one of the many huge T.Y. Hilton plays, kept the Texans at a distance they couldn't close.

Neither team could run the ball in this game but the Texans pass rush was neutralized to a large degree. They were able to get to Luck just twice for a sack while the Texans offensive line struggled, allowing five sacks of Watson. It was also a game where Watson missed a couple of throws he typically doesn't miss.

The concerning part is the Colts were missing a couple of key players, safety Mike Mitchell, center Ryan Kelly, and wideout Dontrelle Inman were all out for that game. Zach Fulton missed that game for the Texans. It showed the Texans still didn't know how to defend Luck and attack him with their talented pass rush.

Ugly Numbers for Texans Defense

Andrew Luck

65 percent completion percentage

863 yards

6 Touchdowns

1 Interception

T.Y. Hilton

13 Receptions

314 yards

Third Times a Charm

The last time division opponents met in the playoffs was last season when the Saints played the Panthers in the Wild Card round and finished the sweep of them. The last time it happened in the AFC it was a situation almost exactly like this one. The Steelers ended up as the sixth seed after losing at home to the Bengals and beating them on the road. The Texans hope history doesn't repeat itself as the Steelers went on the road and beat the Bengals.

Rushing Return?

The Texans ran the ball well against the Colts in the first game but their recent rushing woes were present in game two. The Colts simply couldn't run on the Texans in either game; most teams can't. They moved the ball well on the ground though against the Titans to make the playoffs but outside of pounding the Cowboys on the ground they've struggled to get over 100 yards recently.

Indianapolis has shown twice they score on the Texans without rushing the ball well. The Texans can rarely say that is the case with how they run their offense. Houston rushed for over 100 yards for the first time in four games. Deshaun Watson's legs did most of the work in that element. If they can get production on the ground they can not only score on the Colts but better control the game. If the Colts somehow can run the football, it could get ugly for the Texans.

Disrespect Card

Get used to it over the next few days, Texans fans. The Texans will be the trendy pick to get upset at home. As they should, by the way. The Colts should have tied them and then won the AFC South. They didn't though so the Texans get the benefit of hosting in this round of the playoff. Make no mistake, though they were outplayed in large stretches by Indianapolis, the Texans can absolutely beat the Colts at home. They didn't put together complete games either time. If the Texans play a complete or close to complete game they will be headed to New England to take on the Patriots the next week.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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