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AFC South: Wild Card Weekend

In the last week of the season, the Houston Texans continued their miniature collapse while the surging Colts did more of what they’ve been doing all year: grinding out wins. The Colts defeated the Texans 28-16 in a game that the Texans needed very badly and the Colts didn’t need at all, a very bad sign for a Texans team that has not seemed able to find the motivation to win in recent weeks. The Colts finished the year at 11-5 while the Texans wrapped up at 12-4, though there’s no question which team the NFL wants to face right now. With the return of head coach Chuck Pagano, the Colts seem to be a team of destiny, while the Texans look downright sluggish. Let’s take a look at the early lines for wild card weekend in the AFC South.

Cincinnati Bengals (+4) at Houston Texans, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EST

The Texans continue to find ways to lose games that they absolutely need to win. The Bengals, meanwhile, beat a Ravens team that was benching its starters, though they aren’t scared of the Texans at all. Who would be at this point in the season? After back to back terrible performances against the Vikings and Colts, the Texans have shown exactly zero grit or determination. They resemble the Texans teams of old that opposing offenses marched up and down the field on, not the one with a ferocious pass rush and shut down defensive backs.

“I think it will be good,” said Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton of the upcoming game. “We played there last year and know the atmosphere and what it’s going to be like. The experience last year will definitely help us.”

Unless if the Texans tap some previously unaccessed reserve of determination, it just doesn’t seem likely that they will win this game. They have far superior talent across the board, but the same could be said of the Colts and Vikings. The Texans can’t afford to no-show this game, obviously, but they haven’t gotten off the bus for a few weeks now. Take the Bengals and the points.  Outside of a stout defense and A.J. Green, they’re no great shakes themselves, but I can’t in good conscious recommend that you bet on the Texans right now. The Texans don’t even believe in the Texans, so why should you?

Indianapolis Colts (+7) at Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

Head coach Chuck Pagano returned to the Colts on Sunday, and while I usually don’t go in for the whole “emotional boost” nonsense, there is truly something special about this Colts squad. Not once during yesterday’s game was the outcome in doubt; the Colts looked like the superior team for every second of their game against the Texans. So why, exactly, are they a touchdown underdog against a Ravens team that, outside of a  blowout against the secretly-not-good New York Giants, has not done much this season?

“What a day, what a day,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said after the game. “We could go into what transpired out there over the last three hours and five, 10 minutes whatever, from a stats standpoint and big plays, penalties and run offense and run ‘D’, all of that stuff. But just down the road, I have watched all of this take place for the last 12 ball games.”

While I think things like mojo and momentum are typically nonsense, there’s something special going on with this Colts team.

“Man, this has been a great year, a storybook ending,” Colts receiver Reggie Wayne said. “Let’s keep it going. Hopefully we can continue to write this movie.”

Take the Colts and the points here. I think they beat the Ravens outright.

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