The NFL playoffs begin this weekend with an enticing four-game slate.
The Houston Texans will host the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday at NRG Stadium in a wild-card round matchup between two AFC South rivals. The teams split their regular-season series, with the Texans pulling off an overtime win in Indianapolis in Week 4 and the Colts exacting revenge with a narrow victory in Houston in Week 14.
The Texans will face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the divisional round if they win Saturday, while the Colts will travel to Arrowhead Stadium for a matchup with the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs if they’re able to knock off Houston.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian made their against-the-spread picks for each of this weekend’s NFL playoff games after an impressive regular season. Here are their Colts vs. Texans picks, along with the betting line courtesy of OddsShark.com.
Indianapolis Colts at (-1.5) Houston Texans, Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET
Mike: Colts. It all comes down to the trenches for me here. I think Houston will once again struggle to protect Deshaun Watson who, according to Pro Football Focus, was pressured more often than any other quarterback in football this season. Indy, meanwhile, rebuilt its offensive line and Andrew Luck has benefited as a result. I also like this tidbit from WalterFootball.com: Quarterbacks making their first career playoff start as home favorites since 2002 are 4-13 against the spread (and 7-10 straight-up).
Ricky: Colts. Like Mike, I’m going with Indianapolis thanks to the disparity between the two offensive lines. And I’m not just talking about pass protection, where Houston ranks dead-last in sacks allowed (62) and quarterback sacked percentage (10.92) while Indianapolis ranks first in both categories (18; 2.72). Run blocking will be huge as both teams look for ways to establish balance offensively. The Colts’ O-Line (fourth in run blocking, per Pro Football Focus) is far better than the Texans’ O-Line (last in run blocking, per Pro Football Focus) in generating push up front, so Marlon Mack and Co. could have success on the ground despite Houston’s excellent front seven. That’ll open up some opportunities downfield for Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who’s torched the Texans in two matchups this season. The Colts also rank first in third-down conversion percentage and fifth in red-zone scoring percentage, whereas the Texans rank 20th and 28th, respectively, meaning Indianapolis is better-equipped to extend and finish drives.
Andre: Texans. Sure, Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times this season, but it didn’t impact his game. The guy hasn’t thrown an interception in six straight games, and he has 17 touchdowns to two interceptions while completing more than 71 percent of his passes over the last 10 games — all while getting sacked 37 times in that span. Meanwhile, Luck has been turnover prone, throwing 15 interceptions this season. That’s nearly one pick per game, and that’s not going to fly against a Texans defense that forced 29 takeaways (fourth in NFL) in the regular season. The Texans also allowed 3.4 yards per carry (best in NFL), so if Indy can’t get the run going, expect plenty of pass attempts from Luck, which could lead to turnovers.