It’s hard to feel like an NFL game before Thanksgiving is a pseudo playoff game, but let’s just say the winner of Thursday night’s game will likely end up with a division title.
The Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans face off on Thursday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app. They are both 6-4 after the Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars last week and the Texans were blown out at the Baltimore Ravens. That sets up a fun prime-time battle.
The Colts won the first meeting between the teams, 30-23 back in Week 7, and that’s part of what makes Thursday’s game so important in the playoff picture. Among all 256 NFL regular season games, this one should be among the handful that has the biggest single impact on the playoff bracket.
Tiebreaker scenarios for Colts and Texans
If the Colts pull out a road win on Thursday night, the tiebreaker situation is easy. The Colts will lead the Texans by a game in the standings with five weeks to go, and own the tiebreaker based on the season sweep.
If the Texans win, the tiebreaker situation isn’t as clear.
The second tiebreaker is divisional record. The Texans and Colts would be tied with a 3-1 record in AFC South games if the Texans win Thursday. The Texans still face the Titans twice, and the Colts still play the Titans at home and the Jaguars on the road.
If the Colts and Texans end up with the same divisional record, the next tiebreaker is record against common opponents. They have eight non-divisional common opponents; the Texans are 4-2 in those games and the Colts are 3-2. The Texans have the easier remaining schedule in those games. They each still have to play the Buccaneers. The Texans host the Broncos, and the Colts play at the Saints and host the Panthers. There will be a lot of football left to play after Thursday night, but the Texans seem to have the better chance to win the tiebreaker if they beat Indianapolis.
Long story short: Not only does Thursday night’s game have an obvious impact on the standings, it’s also likely to swing who wins the tiebreaker, too.
Both teams staggering in
While one of these teams is very likely to end up in the playoffs as AFC South champs — the Titans and Jaguars aren’t entirely out of that discussion though — both have serious concerns heading into a huge game.
The Colts saw three key offensive players miss practice on Monday and Tuesday: running back Marlon Mack, receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron. Mack has a broken hand and is out, Hilton has missed a couple games and seems unlikely to play, and Ebron missing practice all week isn’t a good sign for his availability.
The Texans might have been exposed a bit last week. They were blasted 41-7 by the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens might be the hottest team in football, but it was still a shocking loss. The Texans don’t have the same defense after trading Jadeveon Clowney and losing J.J. Watt to a season-ending injury. Their offense has been good, but was totally shut down last week. The Texans might have been looking ahead to a huge Colts game, but it’s still not the way they wanted to go into this matchup.
One of these two teams will work through their issues and come up with an enormous win. Whoever gets it will take a massive step toward the postseason.
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