As we get deeper into the season, and as close, divisional matchups like this one get even harder to predict, I have to think a lot harder about all of the factors that can affect the outcome of a game. Even still, NFL games are so unpredictable by their very nature, with sheer number of players and plays (not to mention intangibles like injuries and officiating) involved, that sometimes, making game picks feels like a fool’s errand.
That’s what makes tonight’s game so tragic.
Here we have two teams, with identical records, squaring off for the lead in the AFC South. There’s a lot at stake, obviously. Houston, in particular, would suffer mightily with a loss; having lost to Indianapolis already this year, failing to even the season series, plus accumulating another divisional loss, could be the deciding factor should they end up tied for the divisional lead at the end of the season. In this division, where last-place Jacksonville is only two games off the lead, and surging Tennessee is only one game back, this game is huge.
I know I might sound like a broken record, but the fact that a game of this magnitude, between two high-quality teams, is being played on a Thursday is a shame.
With both of these teams just a few days removed from hard-fought games, and with both teams dealing with injuries to key players, this game does a disservice to the fans that support each team, as well as fans of football in general, and is cruel and dangerous for the players. It’s incredibly ironic that this contest is presented in “prime time,” when we all know that, no matter how much the players might want to give their all, no matter how motivated and proud they might be, that there’s only so much a player can get out of a body that is tired and hurting.
So, when you’re watching the game tonight, remember that the ones who benefit the most from Thursday Night games aren’t the ones with anything at stake.
Indianapolis at Houston
In a game like this, with so much to consider, I like to stick mostly with what I know. When these teams met a month ago in Indianapolis, both defences were able to keep the running games in check, and Jacoby Brissett out-dueled Deshaun Watson. Brissett could have another big game against a Houston defence that is without JJ Watt (who played in their previous meeting), and which is dealing with a seriously depleted secondary (both starting Safeties are Out). As well, Houston’s defence was on the field for over 35 minutes against Baltimore on Sunday, and they were punished on the ground. By comparison, Indy’s defence had a much easier day against Jacksonville, and is mostly healthy. Indy will be without top RB Marlon Mack, but with their staunch OL winning battles up front, little-used RB Jonathan Williams went for over 100 yards against Jacksonville.
When it comes right down to it, for Houston, though the will might be there, they just have too much more than Indy to overcome.