The Week 12 NFL schedule starts with perhaps the biggest game of the season in the AFC South, as the Houston Texans host the Indianapolis Colts. Kickoff is set for 8:20 EST on Thursday, November 21 at NRG Stadium in Houston. The game can be seen on both Fox and the NFL Network.
Early betting odds list the Texans as 3.5-point home favorites with an over/under of 46 points. Click here to check out all of the Week 12 NFL odds.
The Colts are fresh off a huge 33-13 win over the Jaguars on Sunday. The win was vital for Indy on the heels of back-to-back losses, including an embarrassing loss to the lowly Dolphins. In fairness, Indy’s loss to Miami was without Jacoby Brissett, who returned from injury to play against Jacksonville. Nevertheless, it was a huge win for the Colts to bring them even with Houston at the top of the AFC South at 6-4. Of course, the Colts will finish their season with four road games over the final six weeks of the season, so nothing will come easy from here on out.
On the other side of the coin, the Texans are coming off a brutal loss over the weekend, falling 41-7 to the Ravens. The fact that Houston had two weeks to prepare for the game makes the blowout loss all the more disappointing for the Texans. More importantly, the loss caused the Texans to lose their grip on first place in the AFC South. As mentioned, they are now tied with the Colts at 6-4 with the 5-5 Titans just a game back and the 4-6 Jaguars only two games back. The good news for Houston is that this game begins a three-game homestand. However, that homestand also includes next week’s game with the Patriots. The Texans also play the pesky Titans twice in the final three weeks of the season, so their remaining schedule is by no means easy.
As you can figure out, the winner of this game will sit alone atop the AFC South standings, getting a leg up heading into the stretch run in December. This game could be even more important for the Texans, who lost to the Colts 30-23 when they visited Indianapolis last month. The Colts led almost the entire game and were able to withstand a comeback effort from Houston in the second half. The Colts have now won three in a row against the Texans and five of their last six head-to-head meetings with their division rivals.
I’ve remained high on the Texans for most of the season, but I’m starting to have concerns. Getting blown out, albeit against the Ravens, coming out of a bye week doesn’t inspire much confidence. They also had a disappointing performance when they played the Colts earlier this year. Indianapolis was dominant over the weekend and I can’t rule out the Colts scoring a road win on Thursday, so I’m going to lean toward the underdog and the points in this game.
Admittedly, I have a serious concern about the Colts following the loss of Marlon Mack, who broke his hand against the Jaguars and will miss Thursday’s game. The Colts have relied on Mack and their running game for most of the season. However, Mack’s injury isn’t a deal-breaker. The Colts still have a strong offensive line, so they should be able to plug in a backup and continue to get good production. In fact, Jonathan Williams ran for 116 yards on 13 carries against Jacksonville after Mack left the game. Nyheim Hines, who is also useful as a pass-catcher, should also get more touches.
It’s also worth noting that Mack was held in check by Houston’s defense when the two teams met last month. It was actually Brissett who stepped up in that game, throwing for 326 yards and four touchdowns against the Texans while only getting sacked once. To make matters worse for the Texans, they no longer have J.J. Watt, which will make it more difficult to create a pass rush and throw Brissett off rhythm.
On the other side of the ball, Houston’s problems on the offensive line re-emerged against the Ravens last week, as Deshaun Watson was sacked six times. Even with a productive running game, the Texans couldn’t protect Watson when they fell behind and were forced to throw the ball. No one’s denying that the Texans have elite skill players and are capable of putting a lot of points on the board. But there could be problems against an Indy defense that sacked Watson three times last month and is holding teams to less than 21 points per game.
To be honest, Thursday night games are tough to pick, especially between division rivals that are familiar with one another. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texans won in blowout fashion. However, I think it’s more likely that this ends up being a close game that’s decided by a field goal or less. That makes me more comfortable taking the Colts and the points.