After an 0-3 start from the Houston Texans, and a 1-5 start from the Indianapolis Colts, both teams have rallied to make the playoffs. The Texans rattled off nine straight wins, while the Colts won nine of their last ten. The Texans still managed to win the AFC South, and subsequently claimed the three-seed. Meanwhile, the Colts beat the Titans in the final primetime game of the season to clinch the last spot in the AFC bracket.

The Indianapolis Colts will travel to NRG Stadium to take on the Houston Texans this Saturday in a Wild Card matchup at 4:35

Keys to Victory

Turnovers

While I’ve written in the past that turnover margin is essential to a Texans win, this game will take a different approach. Turnover margin is still very important to a Texans win though. The Colts and Andrew Luck moved the ball through the air at will in week 14. Even with some defensive improvements, the Colts will likely still be able to pass with ease.

With that, the Texans need a couple turnovers to take the ball out of the hands of Andrew Luck. In the second half of week 14, it seemed like the Colts scored on every possession. With the league slowly moving towards a bend don’t break mentality, the Texans will need to implement the mindset in full force. The Colts will move the ball, but if the Texans can force turnovers it will give the offense good field position, as well as take possible scores off the board for the Colts.

Star Power

It’s not even a question at this point which team has more stars. The Colts have Luck and the Texans have Deshaun Watson. Both of them are superstars and will be a force in this league for many years to come. The Texans have an undisputed top three wide receiver in the league with Deandre Hopkins. T.Y. Hilton is the star at receiver for the Colts, and even though he looks like an all-time great against the Texans, he is only simply above average. In favor of the Colts this time, Eric Ebron has looked like a star this season. His 13 touchdowns are good for second in the NFL. The offensive line also has rookie superstar guard Quento Nelson.

On the defensive side though, the Texans are star-studded while the Colts have solid starters. J.J. Watt at defensive end is a top five pass rusher in the NFL. Jadeveon Clowney off the edge is also a top five run defender in the league. The Colts have a young rangy tackler in Darius Leonard, although PFF has made it clear that many of his tackles come from allowing receptions. In that case, Zach Cunningham and Bernardrick McKinney both exceeded 100 tackles and are solid players in coverage. In the secondary, the Texans have Tyrann Mathieu who is the best defensive back on both sides of the ball.

If the Texans stars can bring their best games, then the Texans shouldn’t have any trouble escaping the Wild Card game unscathed.

Personnel Rotations

There’s really not much debate about the personnel on the offense. Quarterbacks and running backs are set, and tight ends will continuously be used by committee. The wide receivers get a little murky with the loss of Demaryius Thomas. Keke Coutee will return. He will be an integral part of this offense after finishing his debut with 11 receptions against the Colts. In the week 14 game in which Coutee was out with injury, the three tight ends combined for 11 receptions as well. As you move down the depth chart, the coverage men become more susceptible. Coutee, the tight ends, along with role redceivers DeAndre Carter and Vyncint Smith may have the opportunity to separate themselves from the rest of the group.

Defensively, the Texans have many options on how to handle the Colts and it will likely be a gamechanger. In the base defense, the only debate would be which safety to play between Andre Hal and Justin Reid. Neither decision would be a detrimental mistake. When the Texans move to the nickel package, Aaron Colvin should come in on coverage duties. With that, the Texans will need to choose between falling back in coverage or rushing the passer. In a scenario where they want to bring blitzes and get home, Whitney Mercilus will likely stay on the field. In a scenario where the Texans would like to drop into coverage and play sideline to sideline defense Mercilus could be taken off in order to keep Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney on the field. It’s hard to say what the gameplan will be, but regardless of what they choose to do, there are specific players that play best with gameplans catering to their skills. If the coaches mismanage a deep defensive rotation, the Colts may score regularly.

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– Max Freedman is the Managing Editor of Full Press Coverage Texans. He covers the Houston Texans. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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