This week’s edition of Thursday Night Football will go a long way towards determining the eventual winner of the AFC South. Both the Colts and Texans come into the matchup with identical records of 6-4. The winner will gain a crucial advantage down the stretch.
That doesn’t mean the side that emerges as victorious in Houston is going to be able to exhale. They will only be a game ahead of the loser and the Titans are still lurking one game back at 5-5. Even the 4-6 Jaguars have a theoretical chance to mount a late season push although that’s pretty unlikely.
Predictably, the Texans have been installed as the favorites by oddsmakers. If you want to bet on Houston this week you need to be prepared to give up 3.5 points against a pretty stingy Colts’ defense.
As always, you will be making a massive mistake if you don’t check out our exclusive Statschecker site to learn everything you can about the game. Before you lock in your bets, make sure you spend some quality time checking out the latest trends and relevant stats. Just like I do every week, I’m going to give you five tasty nuggets from the site to really whet your appetite.
1. The Colts are money inside the division
Indianapolis has won their last six games against AFC South opponents. The Texans are arguably the most talented team in the division, but don’t underestimate just how good Frank Reich and his coaching staff are when preparing against familiar opponents.
That should translate to significant pressure on Deshaun Watson in this game. Houston’s offensive line has improved significantly from the dumpster fire they were in 2018, but this group still isn’t littered with Pro Bowlers. Indianapolis’ front line should be able to wreak some havoc if they can force the Texans into obvious passing downs.
2. DeAndre Hopkins is an obvious key
Hopkins may not be the best wide receiver in the NFL, but he’s absolutely in the conversation. The Colts are very familiar with the damage he can cause. He’s found the end zone in four consecutive games against Indianapolis.
The Colts don’t have the secondary talent to stop Hopkins. All they can really hope to do is to keep him from really hitting them for big plays down the field. That strategy should allow Hopkins to be a great fantasy play on Thursday night.
3. Don’t forget about Eric Ebron
The Colts’ offense isn’t explosive with Jacoby Brissett at the controls, but it still gives its tight ends a lot of opportunities to make plays. Ebron has also scored four times in a row against Houston.
That makes him a great fantasy play in all formats. He’s got the combination of size and speed to really trouble Houston’s safeties down the seam. Look for Indianapolis to take several shots to Ebron early in an effort to loosen the Texans’ defense up.
4. This game will be tight
You should tune in on Thursday night if you like tense games that go down to the wire. Both teams have been accurately pegged by oddsmakers this season. The Colts are 5-4-1 against the spread and the Texans are an even 5-5. There’s very little value to be had in the 3.5 point spread.
Think strongly about simply playing a money line winner in this game as a result. The chances of this game ending up as anything other than a nail biter are quite remote.
5. The ground game will be key
Everyone in the NFL is still talking about how Lamar Jackson outdueled Deshaun Watson at quarterback last week. That might be true, but Houston lost the game at the line of scrimmage. They were shredded by the Baltimore run game for 263 rushing yards.
The Colts would love nothing more than to pound Houston’s front seven into submission. Not having Marlon Mack will certainly hurt their ability to grind out yards on the ground, but Jonathan Williams could be in line for a big day. If Indianapolis can rush for over 200 yards, they’ll be very difficult to beat.
Back the Texans at home
Home field will matter here, but it’s not the only reason to believe the Texans are going to grab the crucial victory. Watson is simply a much better quarterback than Brissett. His penchant to make big plays is going to be enough to earn his team a relatively narrow victory.
The aforementioned loss of Mack is also going to throw the Colts’ offense off their game. Don’t be shocked if the Texans end up winning a relatively low scoring affair. In close division games you should always lean towards the superior signal caller. That’s why Watson and the Texans are the right call on Thursday.