SERIES HISTORY: 30th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 23-6. Indianapolis is 13-1 against the Texans in home games (6-0 at the Hoosier/RCA Dome and 7-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium) and 10-5 in road matchups (all games played at Reliant/NFG Stadium). The Colts have won eight of the last 13 meetings with Houston but have lost the last two contests. The Texans had not won a game in Indianapolis until last season's triumph. The Colts have swept the series nine times while Houston has never swept the series. Indianapolis won the first nine games of the series before losing and then ran off another six-game winning streak.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
When it comes to deciding the AFC South, the playoffs begin this weekend. Three teams are tied for first place, each with a 6-6 record -- Indianapolis, Houston and Tennessee.
With the possibility of any of those three teams earning wild-card postseason spots pretty much out of the question, only the AFC South winner will make the playoffs.
The Colts already swept their home-and-home series with the Titans. Indianapolis, however, lost its only other meeting with the Texans, dropping a 26-23 road game in overtime on Oct. 16.
Tennessee has a home game with Denver and a road trip to Kansas City over the next two weeks. So, with the Colts and Texans scheduled to face off Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium, the game will have a definite postseason feel.
Indianapolis had success with its newfound aggressiveness on both sides of the ball in the win over the Jets. That game plan is expected to continue Sunday against Houston.
The Colts have been taking more shots downfield offensively and getting the ball into the end zone. Indianapolis is also getting the tight end much more involved in the team's passing attack.
Defensively, the Colts will have to dial up some pressure against Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler in an attempt to force turnovers and bad plays. Indianapolis will try to set the tone better defensively than the team did in the earlier loss to the Texans. In that game, Osweiler engineered a dramatic 26-23 comeback victory in overtime Oct. 16.
Osweiler has completed 59.8 percent of his throws for 2,509 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is keenly aware he needs to play the way he did in the first game against the Colts with the season on the line.
"This is the biggest game of our season," Osweiler said. "I'm viewing our season right now as a one-game season, and it's one game we must win. I think our entire football team understands that. There's great urgency in this building right now and it's reflected at practice."
The Texans are averaging just 13.2 points per game on the road, the worst in the NFL. Meanwhile, although the Colts are averaging 29.3 points on the road, they are scoring just 22.5 at home. That 6.8-point drop-off at home is the biggest in the league.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Colts CB Vontae Davis. Hopkins caught his first touchdown pass in six games against the Packers. He is still a dangerous threat despite his reduced production overall. Davis is a strong, physical cornerback.
--Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Texans CB A.J. Bouye. Bouye is having a breakthrough season and is primed to cash in as a free agent. Luck comes into the Houston game with 3,105 yards, 23 TDs and eight interceptions. He has connected on 64 percent of his passes but has been sacked a league-leading 36 times. The Texans are ranked fifth in the league in pass defense, allowing 208.4 yards per game.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT:
--Questionable: LB Curt Maggitt (concussion)
Colts RB Robert Turbin. Turbin has filled his role as the primary backup to Frank Gore. Since signing with the Colts in the offseason, the former Dallas and Seattle running back has become a valuable short-yardage and red-zone producer. He had a touchdown run against the Jets on Monday night. Turbin has four TD runs, which ties for the team lead with Gore.
Texans QB Brock Osweiler is 3-0 as starter vs. division in 2016 and threw for 2 TDs and 97.6 passer rating last week.
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins has 28 catches for 334 yards in the past three meetings.
Texans LB Whitney Mercilus has five TFL, a sack and a fumble recovery in the last two games.
Texans LB Benardrick McKinney is the only player in the NFL with 100 tackles (106) and at least four sacks (four).
Colts QB Andrew Luck is a native of Houston, where he played at Stratford High School before going to Stanford. Luck is 5-2 against his hometown Texans, throwing for 1,637 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has been sacked 19 times in seven games.
Colts WR T.Y. Hilton ranks second in the NFL with 1,088 yards receiving.
Colts LB Robert Mathis has the most sacks (18.5) by any player vs. the Texans, including a sack in three of the past four meetings. He is the franchise leader with 121 sacks.
While much attention is on Raiders-Chiefs and Cowboys-Giants this week, here is a game that may be key in putting one of these teams in the playoffs. The loser is probably out. The Colts have the advantage at home with the more experienced QB.
OUR PICK: Colts, 28-21.