Well, this is it. For all the talk about how important the Buffalo game was to keep momentum, or how crucial the New England game was to show the world that the team can actually play well in a prime-time game on a Sunday night, THIS game THIS Sunday is inarguably the most important game of the year for the Houston Texans. If you're arguing against that, you're arguing against math, and math always wins.
If the Texans lose this game on Sunday in Indianapolis (and if you believe in trends, then they undoubtedly will because that is literally ALL they've done in Indy since the Texans were conceived as a franchise), then the only way the Texans can win the AFC South is if they win their final two games (at Tennessee, home for Jacksonville) and the Colts lose their final two games (at the Dolphins, home for Tennessee) of the season.
That's it. There would be no margin for error left on either the Texans' or the Colts' side. That would suck.
So yeah, if you want to win the division, Sunday is pretty goddamn important. Now, if you want a higher draft pick, then maybe this post isn't for you. I wouldn't mind seeing T.J. Yates play some more postseason football for this franchise. (Yes, I just chugged a huge glass of whiskey while typing that sentence.)
Let's punch out a few things to watch for on Sunday afternoon…
4. Andre Johnson
Before Andre Johnson was released by the Texans in March, Bill O'Brien reportedly told him that he would have about 40 catches if he was still with the team in 2015. (Granted, all reports about this conversation have come from Andre Johnson's side of things, so grain of salt taken.) As it turns out, O'Brien's most accurate scouting report of the season came on a player who is no longer a Texan. Andre Johnson is on pace for 38 catches this year, having played in every game and come down with a paltry 31 catches for 386 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, 7 of those catches, 77 of those yards and two of the three touchdowns came in the October 8 game against the Texans. Naturally.
3. DeAndre's December wall
While Andre Johnson's career winds down in excruciating fashion in Indianapolis, DeAndre Hopkins has filled his shoes nicely back here in Houston. Through 13 games, Hopkins has 89 catches for 1,221 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, in the last couple of games, Hopkins seems to have hit a bit of a wall productivity-wise. His December game against Buffalo was all right by his standards — five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown — but three of those catches (for 61 yards) came on one drive, and he had two drops and a 15-yard taunting penalty. Not a great day at the office. Then last Sunday, Hopkins's frustration seemed to bubble up slightly after he was held to just three catches on six targets against New England. The Texans need a monster Hopkins game to get this win on Sunday.
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2. T.J. time!
The last time the Texans had this good a chance in Indianapolis to win a game was in 2011, right around this time of year, and the starting quarterback was a rookie named T.J. Yates. Of course, the Texans would go on to lose that game to former Texan Dan Orlovsky, one of only two Indy wins that year. Now, four years later, Yates gets a shot at redemption in a game with huge implications. I guess you can set your watch to it — like presidential elections or the Olympics, every four years the Texans will march into Indy led by Touchdown Jesus Yates. Can't wait until 2019!
1. J.J. Watt's club hand
It's no coincidence that the Texans' two worst performances since the Miami game have come when their best players on each side of the ball have had average to below-average games. There's nothing wrong with J.J. Watt's motor, there may be something wrong with his groin and there is most definitely a problem with his left hand. The club hand he used against New England made it almost impossible for J.J. to fight conventionally against offensive linemen. The Colts have an offensive line that is very ripe to be feasted upon. The Texans not having Watt's hand at full strength is an issue, though. The Clowney Revelation must continue on Sunday.
PREDICTION: Colts 20, Texans 16
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.