The aboriginal time Deshaun Watson met Andrew Luck on a football field, the catechism wasn’t so abundant who would win but who wouldn’t lose. The Texans and Colts were mired in abhorrent funks to activate their seasons and the abstraction that either aggregation would detect the playoffs was growing fainter by the week.
Houston, which was 0-3 at the time of that Sept. 30 meeting, won that bold in overtime to jump-start a nine-game acceptable streak. Indianapolis, which alone to 1-4 with the loss, absent afresh the abutting anniversary to the New York Jets—the aforementioned Jets aggregation that accomplished 4-12 this season—before engineering an appropriately abrupt turnaround: The Colts absent alone one bold the blow of the way, which included a attenuated win over Houston.
Now the Colts and Texans are affair for a third time, this one advancing Saturday in the wild-card annular of the playoffs. They’re acutely altered than they were during that aboriginal meeting, and both of their baking streaks shows why.
The two teams cipher wants to comedy in the playoffs are arena anniversary added on the aperture weekend.
Both accept alarming quarterbacks who, at their bests, can be absolutely unstoppable. Both accept defenses that no opposing quarterback wants to face. And that makes them both able of Super Bowl runs in a chase that’s atypically advanced open.
But the adventure of how these two teams came to be so alarming so bound dates aback alike added than their Anniversary 4 meeting. It’s additionally arrant because of area these two teams were a year ago.
Luck didn’t comedy at all aftermost season. He sat out with a accept abrasion that was buried in such abstruseness that there were austere doubts he ability anytime be the aforementioned amateur who was already the league’s best rapidly ascendance superstar. With Luck sidelined, the Colts angled to a 4-12 season.
The Texans didn’t aloof accept one crushing injury. They had two. Watson, a amateur aftermost year, took over at quarterback amid through the team’s aboriginal bold and instantly injected activity into an breach that in contempo years had trotted out guys like Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. It wasn’t pretty, and Watson gave them hope—until he aching his knee in convenance and was absent for the year. Alike worse, that came afterwards stud arresting lineman J.J. Watt had already suffered a season-ending abrasion of his own. The Texans, like the Colts, accomplished 4-12.
Luck and Watson alternate to alpha the season, but the asperous starts flicked at the centermost fears of both fan bases: They were back, but they weren’t the same.
But a aberrant affair about the NFL is how bound aggregate can change for a team. In a address of weeks, the Colts and Texans adapted from flops to juggernauts.
As the division progressed, Watson began to attending absolutely advantageous and chock-full authoritative the mistakes that bogged him bottomward aboriginal on. Over the final 10 games, he completed 71% of his passes with 17 touchdowns and alone two interceptions. He ran for addition four touchdowns. They additionally accomplished the year with the fourth-best scoring aegis in the NFL, buoyed by a advantageous Watt who ranked additional in the alliance with 16 sacks.
Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts looks to canyon beneath burden by Jadeveon Clowney of the Houston Texans. Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images
The Colts’ script-flip was eerily similar. Luck began to comedy like one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, which wasn’t altogether beauteous because he had consistently been that back he was advantageous abundant to footfall bottom on the field. The abnormal alteration was that the Colts, a authorization bedeviled by arresting shortcomings back Peyton Manning’s day, became a arresting force.
Over the aftermost 10 games, alone the Bears accustomed beneath credibility than the Colts. Their point cogwheel in that span, 117, was the league’s best. Darius Leonard, the team’s amateur linebacker, led the NFL in tackles.
All of this makes the aboriginal bold of the NFL playoffs an absurd action of heavyweights. The top two seeds in anniversary appointment get byes but the Colts and Texans accept spent time attractive bigger than any of those teams.
This agency that one of them will be alone by Saturday evening. But it additionally agency one of them will absolutely advance—and be a force no adversary wants to accord with.
Write to Andrew Beaton at [email protected]
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