Win and in is what is at stake Saturday night when a pair of 9-7 AFC South teams -- the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts -- square off in Indianapolis. The victor will clinch a spot in the postseason while the loser will see their 2023 campaign end with a thud. 

The winner also has an outside shot at the AFC South division title, provided the Jacksonville Jaguars are upset on Sunday by the last place Tennessee Titans. Indianapolis emerged victorious in the first matchup of these two teams with a 31-20 road win in Houston all the way back in Week 2, a game they led 31-10 entering the fourth quarter. 

Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, put together a nice box score performance in the loss (384 yards and two passing touchdowns on 30 of 47 passing), but Houston was unable to find much rhythm offensively until they were already down three touchdowns late in the third quarter. 

Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, the fourth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, started this contest and threw for 56 yards on 6 of 10 passing while rushing for 35 yards and two scores on three carries before suffering a concussion. Veteran backup Gardner Minshew came off the bench to throw for 171 yards and a touchdown on 19 of 23 passing while Jonathan Taylor fill-in Zack Moss performed admirably, totaling 88 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Indianapolis out-rushed Houston by 74 yards (126-52), the worst margin in any game this season after racing out in front early. 

How will the high stakes rematch play out in Week 18? We've got you covered. 

How to watch

Date: Saturday, Jan. 6 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
TV: ABC/ESPN | Stream: fubo (try for free)  
Follow: CBS Sports App 
Odds: Texans -1.5, O/U 47.5 (odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook)

Playoff implications


Houston clinches AFC South Division title:

   1) HOU win + JAC loss or tie

  Houston clinches a playoff spot:

   1) HOU win OR

   2) HOU tie + JAC loss + PIT loss or tie


Indianapolis clinches AFC South Division title:

   1) IND win + JAC loss or tie OR

   2) IND tie + JAC loss

  Indianapolis clinches a playoff spot:

   1) IND win OR

   2) IND tie + PIT loss or tie

When the Texans have the ball

Stroud and the Texans cruised in his first game back since suffering a concussion in Week 14, rolling to a 26-3 win against the Titans in Week 17. He threw for 213 yards and a touchdown while completing an efficient 75% of his passes (24 of 32). Houston is the 10th-best total offense in the NFL this season (344.6 total yards per game), but the an overwhelming amount of that production comes from Stroud's right arm.

The Texans' 99.2 rushing yards per game rank 22nd out of 32 NFL teams while their 245.4 passing yards per game rank as the seventh-most in the league. If Houston is going to secure a victory, and its first postseason appearance since the 2019 season, they need a signature performance from Stroud, who has played in the range of a top five quarterback in Year 1.

C.J. Stroud This Season

NFL Rank

Pass Yards/Att









Passer Rating



With fellow rookie Tank Dell out for the season, Stroud's connection with third-year wideout Nico Collins is what keeps Houston's offense on schedule. The tandem has connected for 1,066 yards together, the fourth-most by any rookie quarterback and a single pass-catcher in a season since the start of the 21st Century. 

Most receiving yards thrown by rookie QB to one pass-catcher
Single seasons since 2000

SeasonDuoReceiving Yards


Steve Smith from Cam Newton



Reggie Wayne from Andrew Luck



Mike Evans from Jameis Winston



Nico Collins from C.J. Stroud*


* One game remaining in 2023 regular season

The two of them connected for 146 yards and a touchdown, an eight-yarder in the first quarter, on seven completions back in Week 2, but outside of the touchdown, much of their connection came already down multiple scores. If they can get rolling early, the Texans will have a chance. 

Indianapolis has undergone a significant defensive turnaround since Week 9, allowing 20.4 points per game, the 11th-fewest in the league in that span. In the season's first eight weeks, they allowed an NFL-worst 28.6 points per game. 

The key to their defense is their opportunistic pass-rush. They have 49 sacks as a team this season, the fifth-most in the NFL, and they are the only team to have four players with at least seven sacks: defensive end Samson Ebukam (9.5), defensive end Kwity Paye (8.5), defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo (8.0) and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (7.0).

They aren't a consistent bunch, but they make the most of their chances. Indy's 32.4% quarterback pressure rate in 2023 is the seventh-lowest in the NFL. However, when the Colts get their openings, they convert them into sacks. The Colts' defensive sack rate of 8.3% is the sixth-best in the NFL. The Texans are exactly league average when it comes to quarterback pressure rate allowed with 35.5% clip, 16th in the NFL. This battle up front will be something to keep an eye on. 

When the Colts have the ball

Their offensive keys are to get the ground game going and get the football into wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.'s hands. Since Gardner Minshew became the team's full-time starter in Week 6 after Richardson went down with a shoulder, their attack has been a rollercoaster, one that is mostly on the upswing at the moment.

Minshew racked up a league-high nine turnovers in his first three starts as the primary starting quarterback from Weeks 6-8, but he has calmed down since during the Colts' 6-2 stretch with only five turnovers in that span. 

Pro Bowl running back Jonathan Taylor has a touchdown in five consecutive games, tied for the second-longest active streak in the league. Zack Moss, the team's rushing yards leader this season with 764 -- including an NFL best 466 from Weeks 2-6 -- will play Saturday despite being questionable with a forearm injury, according to NFL Media , meaning he and Taylor will share the backfield for the first time since Week 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 30-13 home win. The duo combined for 161 yards from scrimmage that day. 

Pittman Jr. is by far the go-to-guy in the passing game, leading the team in catches (104, sixth-most in the NFL), receiving yards (1,108) and receiving touchdowns (four). His 104 receptions account for 30.4% of the Colts' catches, the second-highest share of team receptions across the entire league this season, trailing only CeeDee Lamb's NFL-best 122 catches accounting for 31% of the Dallas Cowboys' team catches total. 

Houston's pass-rush versus Indianapolis offensive line will a matchup to circle. The Texans' 45 sacks are tied for the 10th-most in the league while the Colts' 40 sacks allowed are tied for 16th in the league. Rookie Will Anderson Jr.'s 57 quarterback pressures lead all rookies as well as all Texans while his seven sacks are tied for the second-most in his draft class as well as on his team. Although, Houston's sacks leader, defensive end Jonathan Greenard (12.5), is out with an ankle injury, a big blow.

However, the Texans have two of the best ball-hawking cornerbacks in the league in the back end. Former top five pick Derek Stingley Jr.'s five interceptions are tied for the fourth-most in the NFL while Steven Nelson's four are tied for the seventh-most in the league. If Anderson Jr. can get to Minshew, the Colts quarterback could easily toss one up for grabs. 


Score: Texans 27, Colts 23

In high stakes games like this one, the team with the better quarterback typically wins. It's cliche, but that's typically how it goes. Stroud, despite still being a rookie, is already a significantly better quarterback than Minshew has ever been in his five-year career. His connection with Collins starts humming early, allowing Anderson Jr. and the Houston defense to play the pass and negate the Colts' two-headed ground attack featuring Taylor and Moss.  

That will lead to at least one Minshew interception, enough to serve as the difference in a one-possession Texans victory. 

If you want a more analytical approach to your NFL picks, then I highly suggest that you check out the SportsLine Projection Model, which has been on fire this year. Check it out if you want to know which side to bet for every game in Week 18.