NFL Wild Card Weekend opens with a Saturday afternoon showdown between the Colts and Texans. For this game and every postseason contest, we’ll break down the sports betting lines and recommend where to place your bets at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Keep an eye on injury news right up until kickoff since things can change quickly in the NFL. Any player listed as questionable may see limited action or not suit up at all if they don’t respond well in warm-ups.
NFL Wild Card Football Betting Odds
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
NFL Wild Card Football Breakdown
The Texans and Colts meet for the third time this season in what should be an exciting start to the NFL wild-card weekend.
Back in Week 3, Houston defeated Indy 37-34 in overtime after stopping Colts HC Frank Reich‘s fourth-down gamble. Then, in Week 14, Indy held on for a 24-21 victory at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
The Colts remained red hot with a 33-17 win at the Titans last Sunday night to earn this playoff berth. They’ve now won 9 of 10 since starting 1-5 in Reich’s first year at the helm. Andrew Luck tossed 23 touchdowns (TD) with a 108.9 passer rating during that span.
He also enjoyed a squeaky clean pocket for most of the year: Indy allowed the fewest sacks (18) in the NFL. On that note, the Colts will hope to have center Ryan Kelly (neck) back to bolster the offensive line against the Texans’ formidable pass rush.
Luck absorbed six of his 18 sacks over two matchups with Houston but shredded the Texans secondary with 863 passing yards and six TDs in those meetings. In his career, Luck is 35-17 with 107 TD passes when playing indoors or under a retractable roof.
His primary target, T.Y. Hilton, is also far more effective on turf and has been a thorn in Houston’s side for several seasons. Hilton has thrice topped 175 receiving yards at NRG Stadium, including a 199-yard performance in Week 14 despite battling an ankle injury.
Houston ranks 31st in DVOA pass defense against opposing No. 1 receivers. What’s more, starting CB Jonathan Joseph (neck) missed Week 17 after getting injured the previous Sunday. At 34 years old, Joseph is simply incapable of matching Hilton’s speed.
Hilton was held to 70.3 receiving YPG over three playoff games in 2014, and it’s likely the Texans send extra coverage his way, just as the Titans did last week. Yet that allowed TE Eric Ebron, Dontrelle Inman, and Chester Rogers to win their individual matchups and burn an injury-diminished Titans secondary.
Zach Pascal was not targeted last Sunday and is only playing on roughly half of Indy’s offensive snaps. It seems Inman, who played on 62 percent of snaps in Week 17, is the best value WR to target from the Colts receiving corps in DFS contests on DraftKings and FanDuel. All four of those secondary targets should step up with the Colts likely to implement a pass-heavy scheme.
The Texans lead the NFL in DVOA rush defense, but the Colts offense still thrives when Luck is forced to throw on nearly every down. Houston ranks 23rd in DVOA pass defense against TEs, and Ebron saw 18 targets over two meetings with the Texans. He also caught a TD in both games. He’s a tough cover for Houston’s linebackers along with secondary 6-foot-5, 267-pound rookie TE Mo Alie-Cox.
Marlon Mack managed just 33 rushing yards on 14 carries against Houston in Week 14. With J.J. Watt healthy for the first time in several seasons, the Texans stuff the third-highest percentage (25.2 percent) of run plays. While the Texans are strong in pass defense against RBs, they’ve yielded a league-high six TD receptions to the position. Therefore, Nyheim Hines might have more of a role than Mack if the Colts fall behind or go pass-heavy in the red zone.
While Indy has yielded the fewest sacks this season, Houston has allowed the most (62) by far. Deshaun Watson is capable of creating something out of nothing, but his tendency to try and extend plays can lead to those game-changing sacks. Houston’s offensive line is dead last in adjusted sack rate (11.5 percent) and 23rd in power run blocking.
Watson has been pressured on 41.5 percent of dropbacks this year, the highest mark in the league. Luckily for the Texans, the Colts defensive line ranks 29th in adjusted sack rate (5.3 percent) this year.
Bill O’Brien and his staff have responded to those struggles in pass protection by implementing a run-heavy scheme. Houston averages the eighth-most rushing YPG (126.3), but that is where Indy is strongest. The Colts are fifth in DVOA rush defense and just behind the Texans’ defensive line with the fourth-highest stuff percentage (24.7 percent) on run plays. The Colts are holding opposing backs to 3.47 YPC over their last eight games.
Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue combined for 54 rushing yards on 20 carries in Week 14 while Watson added 35 rushing yards on five scrambles. Watson also took five sacks. Plus, he was sacked seven times when these teams met in Week 3.
Indy’s Cover 2-based defensive scheme is designed to limit opposing WRs and force throws towards the middle of the field to TEs and RBs. Facing that strategy, DeAndre Hopkins caught only 4-of-10 targets for a season-low 36 yards and a TD in Week 14. Excepting a 169-yard performance during an overtime win in Indy in Week 3, Hopkins has been held below 100 yards with a modest 51.7 percent catch rate over his last five meetings with the Colts.
For the Texans to be successful on offense, they’ll need tight end Ryan Griffin to step up. Griffin posted a season-high 80 receiving yards against Indy’s Cover 2 scheme in Week 14 and played on 79 percent of offensive snaps in Week 17. Rookie tight end Jordan Thomas is now operating behind Griffin and is more of a red zone specialist.
In the absence of Demaryius Thomas (Achilles), Houston will hope dynamic rookie slot WR Keke Coutee (hamstring) returns from a five-game absence to exploit Indy’s Cover 2 system. Coutee caught 11-of-15 targets for 109 yards in a breakout effort back in Week 3. He is practicing in full and appears ready to make a true difference in the third meeting between these rivals. If Coutee is a full go and Colts strong safety Clayton Geathers (knee) is out, bettors may be wise to pivot toward Houston.
DeAndre Carter and Vyncint Smith could also factor in on the outside with Demaryius Thomas out. Carter stands out as an intriguing punt play on DraftKings with the Colts defense likely skewed towards the Hopkins.
NFL Wild Card Picks
Not only did these rivals split the season series, but they’re also 4-4 since the 2015 season.
Luck certainly holds the edge in terms of experience with six career playoff starts, although Watson won a national championship in college and is unlikely to shy away from big moments. Also, Watson’s tossed only two interceptions over his last 10 games after struggling with ball security early this season.
With Luck facilitating and adjusting on the fly, Indy ranks fifth in drive-success rate and fourth in points (0.698) per red zone trip.
Houston is 25th in red zone offense and has ended more drives with field goals than any other team. Houston’s also struggled with red-zone defense, yielding the second-most points (5.59) per trip this season.
The Texans tend to play close games, with their six losses coming by an average of four points. Also, note that Bill O’Brien is not renowned for his decision-making under pressure.
We like the Colts (+1 on DraftKings Sportsbook) to win on the road, but prefer betting on the point total. The spread opened at 2.5 points and has since been bet down with around 65 percent of the money on the Colts.
Indy leads the league in pace and Houston is ninth, so this game has more shootout potential than Houston’s ground-and-pound style might indicate. While both teams have gone under the point total frequently, including six of the Colts’ last 10 games, we’re taking the over (48 on FanDuel Sportsbook) due to the poise and playmaking potential of both quarterbacks. This should be a pass-heavy game considering the strength of both run defenses.