Colts-Texans Betting Preview: Will Indy Dominate in Houston Again?

Colts-Texans Betting Preview: Will Indy Dominate in Houston Again? article feature image
Credit:

USA Today Sports. Pictured: T.Y. Hilton, Deshaun Watson

NFL Playoffs Betting Odds: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

  • Spread: Texans -1
  • Over/Under: 48
  • Time: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN/ABC

>> All odds as of Thursday evening. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets


Betting Market

The Colts have been a trendy dog all week, receiving more than 50% of bets and dollars as of writing (see live data here). This support has pushed them from a 3-point underdog to just +1 on the road.

The over/under has received sharp action on each side. After opening at 47, the total rose to 49.5 behind steam on the over. But once it got that high, there was a reverse line move on the under, dropping it back down to 48 around the market. Mark Gallant

Trends to Know

Andrew Luck is 20-8-3 (71.4%) against the spread vs. the AFC South, covering by 5.8 points per game. But this will be the first time he’s seen a division opponent in the postseason.

According to our Bet Labs data, Luck is 4-0 straight-up (3-0-1 ATS) against divisional opponents that allowed fewer than 17 points in their previous game, covering by 11.3 points per game. He’s also 5-0 SU when the Colts opponents are coming off a double-digit win. Evan Abrams

This is a matchup of the Colts offense versus the Texans defense. Indy has averaged 27.1 points per game (fifth in the NFL) while Houston has allowed 19.8 points per game (tied for fourth).

When defenses allowing fewer than 20 points per game face offenses scoring more than 26 points per game in the playoffs, the defensive team has gone 39-29-2 (57%) ATS since 2003. John Ewing

According to Pythagorean expectations, the Colts have underperformed this season.

Since 2003, when a team with a winning record has underperformed according to point differential, it’s been profitable to bet them in December or later. These teams have gone 33-20-3 ATS in the playoffs. John Ewing

Biggest Mismatches

When the Colts have the ball: T.Y. Hilton vs. Texans Secondary

Despite Hilton being plagued by a nagging ankle injury that’s caused him to miss practice time and might have cut short a potential 90-yard catch-and-run touchdown after 43 yards in Week 17, the stud WR is undoubtedly the biggest threat to a Texans defense that’s the NFL’s second-worst unit at defending No. 1 wide receivers according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

Hilton’s two stat lines against Houston this season are 4-115 on six targets and 9-199 on 12 targets, including gains of 60, 42, 40, 34, 29 and 28.

And despite the Texans securing a first-round home playoff game for the third time in four seasons, you couldn’t blame fans for not feeling like home field is an advantage against this particular opponent.

Under Bill O’Brien, the Texans are 1-4 at home against the Colts, and a big reason why is that Hilton in Houston channels MJ in Madison Square Garden: Of Hilton’s five combined regular season and playoff games with at least 175 yards receiving, three have taken place in Houston — all one-score losses for the Texans. Chris Raybon

When the Texans have the ball: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Colts Secondary

For the first time in a long time, the Colts’ pass defense has been middling rather than flat-out bad, ranking 20th in overall DVOA and 17th against No. 1 wide receivers — yet it’s still clearly outmatched by Hopkins.

DeAndre-Hopkins
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: DeAndre Hopkins

Such is life when you’re going up against a receiver who not only set a career-high in catches (115) and yards (1,572) this season, but did so on 163 targets — 29 fewer than it took to establish his previous career-best marks.

Perhaps most impressively, Hopkins’ 115 grabs came without a single drop. To put that into context, the receiver with the second-most catches without a drop (Tyler Lockett) caught just 57 balls.

Even containing Hopkins is relative.

After he roasted first-year coordinator Matt Eberflus’ defense for a 10-169-1 line in the teams’ first meeting of 2018, Hopkins saw that same unit return in the second meeting with a game plan that resulted in nearly as many pass breakups (3) as receptions (4) on his 10 targets.

And even though the Texans lost that game 24-21, Hopkins was still able to secure the clutch 7-yard touchdown that pulled the Texans within three points with 2:37 remaining before an untimely third-down penalty by Jadeveon Clowney allowed the Colts to run out the clock Raybon

Who Has the Advantage in Key Areas?

Quarterback: Texans

There aren’t many quarterbacks you’d rather have than Luck, who has excelled in high-leverage situations this season, leading the Colts to the top-ranked third-down offense and fifth-ranked red-zone offense in the league, while Watson’s Texans ranked 20th and 27th, respectively.

But despite Luck’s superior situational success and his 6-0 edge over Watson in career playoff starts, there’s reason to believe that Watson is the more trustworthy quarterback in a game that’s expected to come down to the wire.

Luck falls off on the road. While Watson’s splits at home (13 TD/4 INT, 8.2 YPA) and on the road (13 TD/5 INT, 8.3 YPA) this season were nearly identical, Luck’s outstanding performance in Indy (21 TD/5 INT, 7.8 YPA) didn’t always translate well on enemy turf, where he became more turnover-prone and less efficient (18 TD/10 INT, 6.6 YPA).

Luck hasn’t been as good in the clutch, either.

Not only has Watson led more fourth-quarter comebacks (5) and game-winning drives (5) this season than Luck (3 and 3), but Watson’s 7-of-10, 81-yard performance with five first downs in overtime when these teams met in Week 4 bested Luck (8-of-13, 75 yards and three first downs) in the extra period, allowing Houston to escape with a three-point win.

Andrew-Luck
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Andrew Luck

Luck also isn’t as good under pressure. Among 33 quarterbacks with 250 or more dropbacks, Watson was pressured at the highest rate in the league this season (44.1%) while Luck was pressured at the sixth-lowest rate (29.1%), per data from Pro Football Focus.

Yet Watson was still able to post the league’s best passer rating under pressure (88.4) while Luck ranked 15th (73.4).

Turnovers were again an issue for Luck, too, as he threw seven picks on 173 attempts under pressure while Watson threw just five on 183.

Watson’s play has been more even across all situations than Luck’s.

Watson averaged 8.3 yards per attempt last season and 8.2 this season while Luck has ranged from 6.4 to 7.8 over his six seasons. Even in games without Will Fuller this season, Watson’s 7.9 yards per attempt is easily better than Luck’s 7.2 mark overall.

Luck’s edge in playoff experience doesn’t come without reason for pause, either — he’s compiled a 9-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio with a passer rating of just 70.5 in six career playoff games. Raybon

Coaching: Texans

The Colts have assembled an excellent coaching staff, which is a huge reason for their quick turnaround. But the experience on the Texans’ sideline wins out in this case.

Just as Frank Reich has done in his first season in Indianapolis, Bill O’Brien led the Texans to a 9-7 record and playoff berth in his first season in Houston in 2014.

But O’Brien’s five-year head-coaching resume features four nine-plus-win seasons and three playoff berths in all, in addition to holding various positions from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator under Bill Belichick in New England from 2007-11.

And while Eberflus improved the Colts defense from 27th to 10th in DVOA, this is still Year 1 for the 48-year-old while the 71-year-old Romeo Crennel — who improved the Texans from 23rd to seventh in DVOA in his first year back at coordinator after Mike Vrabel coordinated the defense last season — has held coordinator or head-coaching positions since 2000.Raybon

Frank-Reich-Indianapolis-Colts-2018
Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Colts coach Frank Reich

Special teams: Texans

Despite the name recognition of Adam Vinatieri, I have to give a slight edge to Ka’imi Fairbairn in the kicking game.

Fairbairn has been the model of consistency, connecting on all 41 attempts within 40 yards and making 95% of his extra-point attempts. Meanwhile, Vinatieri is 23-for-27 on field goals (extremely average percentage) and has missed three extra points.

Both teams are almost identical in punt return production, averaging right around nine yards per return, but Houston could have a tough time breaking any long returns against Indy’s coverage unit, which ranks third in net punting and first in opponent return average.

The Texans have had one of the NFL’s best kick coverage units, while the Colts have been about average, another slight edge.

Houston ranks seventh in special teams DVOA; the Colts rank 20th. I don’t think the discrepancy is that big, but I do give the Texans a very small edge. That advantage shouldn’t be swinging your bets, though. Stuckey

Injury Report

Which team is healthier? Texans

The Colts and Texans have frequently stacked their early week injury reports, though Houston is in slightly better shape.

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (neck), slot receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) and defensive tackle Brandon Dunn (ankle) all practiced in full on Wednesday. Still, O’Brien called Coutee a game-time decision.

Meanwhile, the Colts are tentatively expected to have Hilton (ankle) and starting center Ryan Kelly (neck). Hilton’s presence is especially crucial considering Ryan Grant (toe), Zach Pascal (knee) and Dontrelle Inman (shoulder, finger) are also all banged up.

The defense isn’t exactly functioning at 100% with safety Clayton Geathers (knee), defensive end Tyquan Lewis (knee) and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) should be considered questionable.

Note: Info as of 6 p.m. ET Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff. — Ian Hartitz

DFS Edge

For the Colts: Luck

Inside NRG Stadium, Luck is in one of the best game environments for DFS.

He should have plenty of time to throw from the pocket thanks to the Texans’ 28.9% pressure rate (25th in the NFL), per Sports Info Solutions.

It also helps that the Colts’ offensive line was tremendous at protecting him, allowing a pressure rate of just 29.5%. He was sacked on only 9.0% of those pressures, the lowest rate in the league per PFF.

Luck’s Median Projection on DraftKings and FanDuel trails only Watson’s among quarterbacks in this round, according to our FantasyLabs Models.

For the Texans: Hopkins

The Colts have been stronger against the run (fourth in rush DVOA) this season than the pass (20th in pass DVOA), making Hopkins the perfect Texans player to roll back a game stack with.

Hopkins has seen 35% of the Texans’ targets share and 49% of their air yards over the past six weeks, and his Median Projection on DraftKings and FanDuel leads all receivers by nearly four points.

DeAndre Carter could be an interesting salary-relief option on DraftKings for $3,300 with Demaryius Thomas (Achilles) out for the season. Carters’ +3.37 Projected Plus/Minus leads all receivers on DraftKings. Justin Bailey

Bets to Watch

Colts +1: Has any team had an easier stretch of games than the Texans? Their schedule featured only two opponents inside the top 12 of Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric — the Colts and Patriots — who the Texans went 1-2 against with the one win coming in overtime.

The heart of Houston’s issues is the offensive line, which ranks dead last in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. Watson has been on the run in every single game.

In addition to poor protection, the run-blocking ranks outside the top 20 in power rank, stuffed and second-level yards.

These rankings indicate Saturday will be a long day against a Colts D-line that’s fourth in stuffed and seventh in second-level yards.

And if all that weren’t enough, the Colts’ offensive line ranks second in adjusted sack rate. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney might stop the run, but they will have issues getting to Luck.

The Texans have not covered against the Colts at home in the the past six tries. Indianapolis, meanwhile, finished the season red hot, winning nine of its last 10 games.

Contrary to what Raybon said earlier, I trust Reich to out-coach O’Brien — then to give Andy Reid and the Chiefs plenty of problems in the divisional round. Collin Wilson

ndianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron (85) catches a touchdown in the second half against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron (85).

Over 48: This is the highest over/under of the weekend. It’s also the most popular.

I don’t care.

Playoff games in domes have been straight cash, homie. The over has hit in 28-of-37 games since 2003, winning by an average margin of more than six points.

One might think that games with lower totals in this sample would have gone over more often, but they would be wrong: In games with totals of 47 or higher, the over has hit 21 out of 24 times by a margin of almost 10 points. If there’s a 24-game sample you want to lay down a handsome wager on, this could be it.

The games with lower totals are just 7-6 with a margin of practically zero, which is why I don’t like Seahawks-Cowboys as much.Gallant

Over 48: There are many reasons why this is the week’s highest over/under.

  • The Colts (No. 2 in situation neutral pace) and Texans (No. 9) easily boast the round’s fastest-paced matchup.
  • It boasts the two highest combined net yards per pass attempt rates of the week.
  • The Texans are one of six defenses to allow at least 75 receiving yards per game to opposing No. 1 wide receivers, and Hilton has historically dominated at NRG Stadium.
  • The Texans and Colts are the league’s only defenses that have allowed at least 70 yards per game to opposing tight ends.
  • The Colts (No. 20 in DVOA vs. pass, No. 4 vs. run) and Texans (No. 18 vs. pass, No. 1 vs. run) feature pass funnel defenses that should be exploited by the other pass offense.

The biggest concern on both sides of the ball is pressure. The Texans have done a terrible job of protecting Watson, but he’s continued to make the best of his situation.

Meanwhile, the Colts did a great job limiting hits on Luck, but the Texans were surprisingly able to cause some problems — he was sacked six times in two games against the Texans, but just 12 times in his other 14 games.

I’ll bet on these two elite quarterbacks to make big plays despite the potential for some muddled pockets. Hartitz


Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.