Sunday will be the second time this season that the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts have faced off against each other. The first matchup was back in Week 4, which served as a turning point for both teams.
The Texans were able to walk away with a 37-34 victory in overtime. That come-from-behind win was the beginning of what is now a nine-game winning streak, the longest active one in the NFL. It also represented Houston's win first of the season after starting 0-3.
While the Colts weren’t victorious, it still served as a turning point for their franchise quarterback. Andrew Luck — who was still trying to get back to 100 percent after his shoulder injury — managed to put up impressive numbers (464 yards, 4 TDs) in the loss.
Yet again, there’s a lot on the line this Sunday. Can Houston (9-3) make it in 10 wins in a row or will Indianapolis (6-6) get some revenge and improve its playoff chances?
Indianapolis at Houston
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Houston -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The battle for the AFC South
The Texans currently have a three-game lead in the AFC South. Houston's nine game-winning streak as it sitting at 9-3 with Indianapolis and Tennessee entering Week 14 at 6-6. A Texans win would eliminate the Colts from having any shot at a divisional title in 2018.
Likewise, the Titans also need a win Thursday night at home against Jacksonville (4-8) if they want to stay in the hunt. In other words, the AFC South picture could become considerably clearer by late Sunday afternoon.
2. Andrew Luck vs. Texans defense
Prior to the Week 4 matchup with Houston, Luck was averaging just 220.7 passing yards per game with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He wasn't throwing the ball downfield much (5.4 yards per attempt) and questions were starting to swirl about the overall health and strength of his throwing shoulder.
That all changed, however, after he completed 40 of 62 attempts for 464 yards and four touchdowns in the 37-34 overtime loss. The yards are still a season high, but up until last week's game he had gone eight straight with at least three touchdown passes. The seven-year veteran’s game against the Texans was a completely different story, however. Luck threw the ball 62 times in that game, completing 40 of them (64.5 percent) for 464 yards and four touchdowns. He's now second in the NFL in touchdown passes with 32 and is eighth in yards (3,360).
Meanwhile, Houston's defense is third in points (19.6) and 10th in yards (341.5) allowed per game. Luck and company had quite a bit of success the first time around. Can they do it again on Sunday?
3. Houston’s pecking order at wide receiver
The Texans made a bold move at the trade deadline by acquiring Demaryius Thomas. That decision was mostly related to the season-ending injury suffered by Will Fuller IV, and the hope was that the former Bronco could provide Deshaun Watson with another option in the passing game.
Four games in and Thomas is still finding his comfort level and fit in Houston's offense. He has managed a total of 10 receptions for 131 yards. He does have two touchdowns, but both of those came in the same game, against Tennessee in Week 12.
Keke Coutee, the Texans' fourth-round pick out of Texas Tech, has emerged as the No. 2 option behind DeAndre Hopkins, but he's battled injuries all season. He missed last week's game due to a lingering hamstring issue.
The good news is Watson is that he still has Hopkins, who ranks in the top 10 in the league across the board with 80 receptions for 1,115 yards and eight touchdowns thus far.
Houston and Indianapolis are two of the hottest teams in the AFC. No one is hotter than the Texans right now, who ran their winning streak to nine in a row last week while the Colts saw their own five-game streak come to end after falling 6-0 at home to the Jaguars.
The over/under in this game is currently set at 49.5 points, which means the over could be attractive in what should be a nice offensive performance from both teams. Don’t quite as many points as the 37-34 final in Week 4, but Houston's firepower and defensive prowess will be too much for Andrew Luck and the Colts to overcome.
Prediction: Texans 31, Colts 20
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.