Christmas comes early for NFL fans this year. With 24 teams still mathematically alive in the playoff race, Week 15 boasts a bevy of games with major postseason implications. In fact, six games feature teams that are both above .500, and five feature at least one team with a clinching scenario. Let's take a closer look at these six Statement Sunday matchups.
What's at stake?
Houston is looking for a lot more than self-respect after their embarrassing Monday night affair. A win would clinch the AFC South -- and possibly a playoff bye, if the Patriots and Broncos both lose.
A Colts win would change the tenor of two races for the rest of the regular season. The division title would suddenly be back up for grabs, with a rematch looming in Week 17. The Texans would also leave themselves vulnerable to giving up homefield advantage in the playoffs to New England. The Colts would also clinch a playoff spot with a victory. Just as important, a strong result would show they can actually compete in the playoffs when they get there.
Player to watch
Arian Foster, RB, Texans: If the Texans can jump out to an early lead, they will likely play ball-control offense, in an effort to keep Andrew Luck off the field for as much of the second half as possible. Expect a steady dose of Foster, as well as a fair amount of touches for Ben Tate. More ...
Gary Kubiak, head coach, Texans: Kubiak deserves credit for getting Houston over the hump and into the playoffs this season and last. That is no small accomplishment, especially when you consider many folks doubted that he was capable after many seasons of underachievement and disappointing finishes. Now, the pressure is on for Kubiak to prove he's the coach to take Houston to the promised land of the Super Bowl. More ...
Matchup to watch
Andrew Luck vs. J.J. Watt: The Colts' signal-caller excels at escaping pressure and plays his best football when he's under fire. Will he be able to get away from Watt, who can take games over and neutralize quarterbacks with his pass rush skills? More ...
Did you know?
The Colts lead the series, 17-3, but all of the Texans' wins have come at home, including in each of the past two seasons. ... QB Andrew Luck needs 260 passing yards to set the single-season rookie passing record. ... Luck has thrown 18 TD passes this season. The Colts' three QBs last season threw a combined 14. ... Luck has been knocked down 100 times this season, most in the league and 14 more times than second-place Michael Vick. ... The Texans have allowed 42 points in each of their two losses this season. ... In the previous three seasons, the Texans have had the NFL's leading passer (Matt Schaub in 2009), rusher (Arian Foster in 2010), and receiver (Andre Johnson in 2009). ... Foster has scored a TD in every game this season. ... Over his past four games, WR Andre Johnson has 612 receiving yards. There are 54 players with 612-plus receiving yards this season.
Elliot Harrison's prediction
Expect the Houston Texans to be all sorts of PO'd after getting slapped around by the Patriots on national television. Can Andrew Luck capitalize on man coverage the way Tom Brady did? Can T.Y. Hilton give the Colts a shot in the arm in the return game? Maybe. But Indy's front seven is going to have a hard time limiting Arian Foster and the entire Texans run package. The Colts just don't have that kind of personnel -- they're allowing 4.7 yards per carry. This is a huge game in the AFC wild-card picture for the Colts, but I think the Texans getting hammered last week is a case of poor timing for Indianapolis. #NotaHaterColtsNation Texans 34, Colts 20. (See predictions for every Week 15 game.)