HOUSTON – The Houston Texans are set to host division rival the Indianapolis Colts Saturday in the AFC Wildcard round of the NFL Playoffs at NRG Stadium.
This marks the third time the teams will square off this season after splitting the regular season series. This is also the first time the teams will face each other in the post-season.
After the Colts finalized the playoff pairing with their win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football, national media begin looking ahead at the quarterback match-up between Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck.
Lorenzo Reyes of USA TODAY Sports writes: “In Houston’s first six games, quarterback Deshaun Watson threw seven picks. Then he threw just two in the final 10 contests. On the other side, Andrew Luck, who will most likely be the league’s comeback player of the year, fell short of a career high in touchdown passes by one, finishing with 39. Of the four wild-card playoff games, this is the quarterback matchup that is most enticing.”
Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated writes: “Normally we’re forced to endure a couple of games to gloss over. Buffalo-Jacksonville in 2017. The Derek-Carr-less Raiders of 2016, or the Matt Moore Dolphins. Alex Smith vs. the four-interception Brian Hoyer in 2015. Next week, we’re guaranteed Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson, Philip Rivers and Lamar Jackson. After that, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes await.”
When the Texans clinched the AFC South title on Sunday, they become one of two teams this season to complete a worst-to-first turnaround.
Grant Gordon of NFL.com writes: “The win also clinched the Texans' run from worst to first, joining the Bears as teams who made the turnaround this season. In 2017, the Jaguars and Eagles achieved the feat, thus making it back-to-back seasons in which two teams pulled it off. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this has never happened in MLB, NBA or the NHL -- two teams going ‘worst to first’ in their divisions in consecutive seasons.”
Josh Alper of NBC Sports writes: “It’s the second time that Houston has pulled off that worst to first transition in their history and the 25th time that a team has done it since the start of the 2003 season.”
The Colts’ momentum heading into the match-up is also making headlines for first-year head coach Frank Reich.
Mark Maske of The Washington Post writes: “The Colts’ loss to the Texans came in Week 4 in Indianapolis, an overtime defeat in which (Frank) Reich took an ill-fated fourth-down gamble instead of settling for a tie and handed Houston its winning field goal. If that loss had been a tie, the Colts would be the division champs and the hosts of next weekend’s game. But that was one of the few coaching missteps by Reich all season, and the aggressive mind-set he was trying to establish with that move perhaps played a part in the Colts turning around their season.”
Zak Keefer of the Indy Star writes: “The backup QB who orchestrated the biggest comeback in both college football history and NFL playoff history has now scripted one of the greatest mid-season turnarounds in recent memory. Word to the wise: Don't bet against Frank Reich.”
Longtime Houston football fans are very familiar with Reich since that history making NFL playoff comeback came against the Houston Oilers, who lost to his Buffalo Bills, 41-38 in overtime, back in 1993.
The opening line for the Texans-Colts has Houston at -2.5.
R.J. White of CBS Sports writes: “With home field typically accounting for three points, this is the sportsbook telling us to expect people to be on the Colts in this game, as if they expected heavy Texans money they would have opened it at Texans -3. And it's hard not to like the Colts after they went into Houston and won in early December, part of a 9-1 run to close out the season.”