Texans -5 1/2 at Colts (2 units)
There's a huge class difference between these two teams. The question is can the Texans cover this road spread with a third-string rookie quarterback and how motivated will the Colts be?
We know motivation for Houston isn't going to be a problem after the Texans were embarrassed at home by Carolina this past Sunday. The Texans can still finish 12-4 and earn a first-round bye and home field advantage in the playoffs.
The Texans caught a break with Baltimore and Pittsburgh also losing. Gary Kubiak is confident enough in his team's talent level that he's holding out his best wide receiver, Andre Johnson.
Johnson has a hamstring injury. If this were a playoff game Johnson would likely be playing. But Kubiak knows his team can whip Indianapolis without Johnson. That should tell you something about this pointspread - it's too small thus giving excellent value to the favorite.
The Colts lack Houston's incentive. They are just playing the string out and are actually in a letdown spot after finally achieving their first victory. That takes the pressure off them.
It's actually better for the long-term future of the franchise if the Colts lose and thus don't jeopardize their chances of landing the No. 1 overall pick and getting Andrew Luck.
The oddsmaker has misread this matchup by hanging such a small line. It should be more than a touchdown. The record shows that Indianapolis has covered its last three games. But that's misleading. The Colts trailed the Patriots, 31-10, before getting a backdoor cover with two meaningless touchdowns during the final 2:12.
The Colts scored a meaningless touchdown on the final play against Baltimore to get another backdoor cover in a 24-10 loss as a 16 1/2-point underdog. Then this past Sunday the Colts had a plus two turnover advantage, including returning an interception off Matt Hasselbeck for a touchdown in their win against Tennessee. If you discount an 80-yard touchdown run by Donald Brown on a broken play, the Colts managed just nine first downs and 207 yards of offense against the sliding Titans.
Houston had its seven-game win streak and 6-0-1 ATS mark snapped this past Sunday against Carolina. The Texans outgained the Panthers, but were done in by a minus three turnover ratio.
The Texans rank in the top five in the major defensive categories. They will have no trouble containing a punchless Indy offense that ranks second to last in total yards and averages just 15.1 points per game. Houston is familiar with Dan Orlovsky, who was a backup quarterback for the Texans the previous two seasons. Orlovsky is 1-9 as an NFL starter.
The Colts already have lost at home to far inferior teams than Houston. The Colts lost by eight to Cleveland, by four to Kansas City, by 14 to Jacksonville and by eight to Carolina.
The Texans crushed the Colts, 34-7, opening week. Houston did have Matt Schuab in that victory, but was missing its best player, running back Arian Foster. The Colts defense was fresh back then. Now it's worn down from injuries and being on the field way too long. Most star running backs have tired legs at this late stage of the season. But Foster is fresher than most having missed most of the first three games because of a hamstring injury.
Foster and Ben Tate, who rushed for 116 yards in the first meeting against the Colts, are the keys. The Texans will ride these two excellent backs, which will take the pressure of T.J. Yates and allow him to successfully play-action and pick his spots.
Houston ranks second in rushing averaging more than 151 yards per game and is first in average time of possession. The Texans will methodically wear down an already worn down and unmotivated Colts team.