(Indianapolis) Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans knew that the duel against the Indianapolis Colts at the end of the season was going to be very different from that of September. However, he never imagined that the scenario could change so much.
Sixteen weeks after both head coaches – Ryans and Shane Steichen – were asked numerous times about their future quarterbacks, the two clubs will play a decisive match for a place in the playoffs.
“We’re a completely different team right now,” Ryans said. You watch the videos [of the first match], and you say: “wow”. I am encouraged to see how much we have improved. We know who we are now.
“I think earlier in the season all teams are trying to find their identity. How will you play? I think now we know who we are. »
This is the case for the Colts as well.
With identical records of 9-7, the two teams find themselves in a three-way tie at the top of the American South section. One of them will put an end to a drought without playoffs by winning on Saturday. The Texans last participated in 2019, while the Colts last participated in 2020.
And if the Jacksonville Jaguars lose Sunday to the Tennessee Titans, the winners of Saturday’s game will be crowned section champions and play one final home game in the first round of the playoffs.
Both teams are playing meaningful games less than eight months after drafting a quarterback in the top five selections, but they haven’t taken the same path.
The Texans were able to count on a historic first season from C. J. Stroud and a better-than-expected defensive unit. Stroud has thrown 21 touchdown passes, has just five interceptions and is 156 yards shy of 4,000 despite missing two games with a concussion.
The Colts turned to veteran quarterback Gardner Minshew after rookie Anthony Richardson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5. Minshew responded by leading his team to victory in six of his eight starts.
“You build something and it freezes, the chemistry – like I said, it always starts in the middle of the season,” Steichen said. Obviously you want to keep it going. I think that’s what our guys did to put us in the position we’re in right now. »
Result: two teams that few people saw playing in the playoffs will play one of the most anticipated games of the final week of the NFL schedule.
“I told my teammates earlier, it’s the same sport we’ve been playing since we were young, so nothing changes,” Stroud said. We have to prepare seriously and do everything we need to do to try to win. »