The Texans still control their playoff seeding destiny and would lock up a first-round bye Sunday with a victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but Houston is much more vulnerable now than at any time this season. If New England, Denver and Houston all finish with 12-4 records, the Broncos would be the odd team out, but they should roll over the Kansas City Chiefs to go 13-3.
The Colts will host the Texans in the regular-season finale as Houston attempts to leave Circle City with a victory for the first time in franchise history. Running back Arian Foster has averaged 164 yards per game against the Colts, and J.J. Watt absolutely dominated the first meeting between the teams with 10 tackles, three sacks, six tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. And the Colts still are banged up on the offensive line.
"We've got to block 94 (Antonio Smith) and 99 (Watt). They're outstanding players," Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "Their front is as good as anybody we've played, and their secondary is good. It's an excellent defense. Situationally, on third down and in the red zone, we failed a couple times in the red zone against them and fumbled the ball and got a touchdown called back that would have been huge points in that game.
"We had it to a six-point game in the fourth quarter and couldn't pull this one out. Hopefully we'll have that there and win it this time."
Indianapolis tends to go as Andrew Luck goes -- and the rookie quarterback plays much better at home -- so that's the primary concern for Houston. The onus is on Watt and the pass rush.
Foster could run wild against the No. 30 run defense in the NFL, but the Colts did contain him for the first three quarters in Houston. Frankly, the Texans need quarterback Matt Schaub to play up to his Pro Bowl selection. He has thrown three touchdown passes and one interception and failed to surpass 261 passing yards in the last four games.
"We have an organization here that's trying to figure out how to become a winner and how to become a playoff team," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday. "We've gotten that one done, and it's been a lot of fun through the process, but once you get there, there's another level for everybody, coaching, playing, organization. If you are going to win a championship, it gets pretty obvious the further you go.
"So yeah, I think unless you are an organization that's stepped up and won some championships, I think that's a challenge for everybody."