ESPN senior writer Mike Sando asks NFL insiders to pick winners in select games each week. Three evaluators joined the panel for Week 14. This week’s games: Colts-Texans, Ravens-Chiefs, Eagles-Cowboys, Rams-Bears and Vikings-Seahawks.
Sunday: 1 p.m. ET, CBS | Point spread: HOU by 4.5 | Insiders pick: HOU (2/3)
The Texans are first on defense, 11th on offense and 12th on special teams in ESPN’s efficiency rankings since their nine-game winning streak began in Week 4. Only the Saints and Chargers outrank them in total efficiency over that span.
“What’s interesting to me on this is, Indianapolis plays a ton of zone coverage with eyes on the quarterback, which gives them a chance to match up against a scrambler like Deshaun Watson,” one of the insiders said. “I think [Andrew] Luck bounces back from last week. A big part of this game is whether Indy can keep it within one score through three quarters. A fast start by Houston could be very tough to overcome because of the pass rush and crowd noise.”
Watson rushed six times for 41 yards in the Texans’ 37-34 victory over Indy in Week 4. He accounted for a season-high 26 first downs in that game. Luck had four scoring passes without a turnover, the first of eight consecutive games in which he threw at least three scoring passes, a streak that ended with a 6-0 shutout loss to Jacksonville last week.
“Houston’s defense is playing well, their offense is coming along and you would think this would be a game where the Texans just steamroll them,” another insider said. “Houston should win based on how they are playing, but I like Indianapolis to bounce back off a bad week. I think this one will be lower scoring than the last one. I think Luck plays with more control, more poise, so this is my upset pick of the week, against my better judgment.”
The third insider thought the Texans would win this game and probably a playoff game as well.
“Indy doesn’t have the defensive personnel to make the difference,” this insider said. “Houston does, and Romeo Crennel does a great job allowing his guys to play fast. He does not try to overthink it, especially now that they are healthy on their front.”