The Houston Texans are 12-3 and in first place in the AFC South. They also currently hold the top overall seed in the AFC.
In Week 17, the Texans travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts.
The Texans rank 14th on offense, fourth on defense and 10th overall in DVOA.
Primary Talking Point for Week 17
It's way too soon to say that the dream season in Houston has hit the skids, but there is every reason to be suspicious of the Texans.
They've been pushed around two of the last three weeks, and the loss to Minnesota at home was especially troubling.
Fortunately for the Texans, they still have every opportunity to go out and claim home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win over the Colts.
The two teams met just a couple of weeks ago in Houston, and it was clear that the Texans were a vastly superior squad.
The good news for the Texans in the playoffs is that it doesn't matter how good a team is. The only thing that matters is if that team wins.
Houston's defense has clearly regressed from 2011 and is being propped up by the once-in-a-generation play of J.J. Watt.
The offense averages better than 26 points a game, but hit that mark just once in the last month.
Houston needs to finish the regular season strong with a convincing win over the Colts or they risk putting a season's worth of hard work in jeopardy.
Head coach Gary Kubiak addressed the media on Monday and gave this injury update:
The two guys we came out of the game with (injuries), obviously Arian and Brooks (Reed), I just talked to (Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Geoff Kaplan) Kap.
Brooks got sore, which we expected. We went into the game expecting to play him a certain amount of plays. We knew he would get sore, probably there was some scar tissue-type stuff that he was going to have to go through but there were no setbacks. We did re-examine him yesterday and there were no setbacks, so we’re moving back forward with him.
We are running some tests today with Arian, just to be sure but everything has been positive and we’re expecting him to be back also. That’s the two guys right now that obviously were questions coming out of the game, but everything looks good, as of my last conversation.
Reasons for Optimism
A win over the Colts, however, secures a relatively easy path to the AFC Championship Game. The most likely scenario for the Texans in the divisional round would be a visit from the Baltimore Ravens or a third game against the Colts.
Both are teams that should be dispatched with ease.
Whether or not the Texans are playing their best football or are as good as their record, everything is still set up for a deep postseason run.
All it takes is one more win to set it all in motion.
Troubling Stat of the Week
Some in the media have called Houston one of the weakest top seeds in recent memory, and there is some statistical evidence to back that up.
The Texans are just 4-3 against winning teams, bolstered by victories over the suspect Colts and Ravens, and with a win over Chicago in which their starting quarterback was hurt for half the game.
Their "estimated wins" based on their DVOA place them as eight- or nine-win team. Their Pythagorean wins have them at 10 victories.
This is a case where the eye test and the numbers line up. Both indicate the Texans may be considerably more vulnerable than their record indicates.
None of that means that they are going to lose in the playoffs or that they aren't a good football team. What it does mean is that for predictive purposes, it's more useful to think of Houston as a 10- or 11-win team rather than as a 12- to 13-win team.
Overall Trend: Falling
The Texans peaked against Chicago in Week 10. Since that victory, Houston has been outscored by 10 points, and struggled to beat bad football teams like the Jaguars and Lions while getting shellacked by the Patriots and Vikings.
The Texans' offense has still produced for the most part, averaging 25 points a game in that span. The defense, however, has completely collapsed, and has surrendered more than 26 points a game over the past six contests.
The Texans need a win. Then they can take a week to heal and reset their schemes heading into the playoffs.
This team still has a very real chance of winning it all, but they are going to have to start playing better and soon.
Quotes courtesy of the Houston Texans PR department via press release.