The Saturday GPS: Wild-card entries Colts, Seahawks try to mess with Texas
GOLD JACKET DOUBLEHEADER
INDIANAPOLIS @ HOUSTON, 4:35 p.m. (EST)
The line: Texans by 1-1/2
The weather: Retractable roof
The story: This is the matchup the Texans didn’t want. First, because the Colts are the hottest team in football. And second because they know how to win in Houston. They did it in December, breaking the Texans’ nine-game winning streak, and they can do it again … provided, of course, they bottle up Deshaun Watson as they’ve done this season. In two games, the Colts sacked him 12 times. I don’t worry about the Colts scoring. They will. But Houston? It all depends on the pass protection Watson didn’t have. He was sacked an NFL-high 62 times, the most in league history since 2006. But then there’s this: Momentum. Indy has it. And Houston? Not so much. The Colts won nine of their last ten. The Texans split their last four and scrambled to overcome the Jets. And remember: Even though these two split their season series, the Colts took Houston to OT in September, losing only when coach Frank Reich gambled and went for the win instead of settling for a tie. So the Colts can play with these guys. And they know they can beat them … because they have.
Something to consider: In 14 games vs. the Texans, T.Y. Hilton has 76 catches for 1,445 yards and nine TDs. Among active receivers, only Atlanta’s Julio Jones has bigger numbers against a single opponent (in this case, Tampa Bay). Maybe that’s why Hilton calls NRG stadium “my second home.”
SEATTLE @ DALLAS, 8:15 p.m. (EST)
The line: Cowboys by 2
The weather: Retractable roof
The story: Little known fact: Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw more touchdown passes on fewer attempts this season than MVP candidate Drew Brees. Somehow that got lost in all the talk about how the Seahawks have become more of a rushing offense … which they have … and less about Russell Wilson. Seattle led the league in rushing and was 27th in passing -- all of which worked in its favor as the Seahawks won five of their last six to reach the playoffs for the seventh time in the past nine years. In essence, they’re not altogether different from the Cowboys, who ranked 23rd in passing and 10th in rushing and who hurried to the finish line. But while both have mobile young quarterbacks who can beat you with their arms and/or legs, only one has won a playoff game – and that’s Wilson. In fact, he’s been to two Super Bowls and won one of them. Plus, he beat the Cowboys earlier this year. But that was in September, and it was in Seattle. This is different because Dallas is home where the Cowboys are an NFC-best 7-1 (tied with the Rams and Chicago) and where they beat New Orleans. Plus, they’ve evolved as a defense, allowing fewer points this season (324) than any NFC team outside of Chicago, and are the NFL’s best rush defense. The key here is the Cowboys’ ability to avoid penalties and sacks. Dak Prescott is Deshaun Watson Lite, sacked 56 times this year, second only to – you guessed it – Watson.
Something to consider: Seattle committed an NFL-low 11 turnovers this season and led the league with a plus-15 in the takeaway/turnover differential.
BEATING THE ODDS
(Picks made vs. the spread)
RON BORGES -- Indianapolis (+1-1/2). The Colts' D will get to Watson, but the Texans won't reach Luck.
CLARK JUDGE – Indianapolis (+1-1/2). Sometimes you're good, and sometimes you have Luck. The Colts have both.
RICK GOSSELIN – Indianapolis (+1-1/2). The Texans need luck. The Colts have Luck.
THE SATURDAY OMG
According to Pro Football Focus, Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins had 115 catchable targets this season without a drop – nearly double PFF’s previous record.
THE SATURDAY PLAY LIST
INDIANAPOLIS RB MARLON MACK. He has five rushing TDs in his last four games.
HOUSTON DE J.J. WATT. In five playoff games, he has five sacks and an interception returned for a TD**.**
INDIANAPOLIS WR T.Y. HILTON. See the Colts-Texans summary**.**
SEATTLE QB RUSSELL WILSON. He had seven games this season with three or more touchdown passes, the most in franchise history.
DALLAS RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT. In two career games vs. Seattle, he’s averaged 112 yards per start.
DALLAS WR AMARI COOPER. In five home games with Dallas, he has 35 catches for 551 yards and six TDs.
FIVE THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
Wild-card round winners have won the Super Bowl nine times. The most recent club was the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. Six of the nine winners have been from the NFC.
Dallas was 6-1 this season when Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 20 times or more.
Seattle is the only NFC team with multiple players with 10 or more sacks each – Frank Clark (14) and Jarran Reed (10.5).
Houston led the AFC with a plus-13 in the takeaway/turnover differential.
Nobody anywhere was sacked more last season (56 times) than the Colts’ quarterbacks. One year later, only Drew Brees was sacked less (17 times) than Colts’ Andrew Luck (18).
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