The Houston Texans have a problem and that’s beating Frank Reich’s Indianapolis Colts at home under head coach Bill O’Brien. Reich completely owns him.
The Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts have been division rivals since 2002’s realignment to include Houston as an expansion franchise. In the 18 years since the AFC South was created, one thing is certain: the Colts dominate the Texans in this rivalry series, going 8-26 against Houston since 2002. And that may not change, as Frank Reich looks to own Bill O’Brien as well.
Since Reich took over at the Colts head coach in 2018, he has gone 3-1 against the Texans, including three wins in a row. While Houston won the first meeting in 2018, that was only Reich’s fourth game as an NFL head coach.
You have to remember that Colts started 2018 in a 1-5 hole before finishing the season on a 9-1 tear to reach the AFC playoffs. And that home loss was back in Week 4 on a field goal in overtime. Reich would later get into a rhythm coaching his team and would actually beat the Texans twice before the end of the season.
Indianapolis took Week 14’s road game last year in Houston by a field goal, 24-21. Fate would have it that these two rival teams would meet in Houston for the AFC Wild Card game with the Texans being the 2018 AFC South division winner. What happened in Houston on that Jan. 5 was a convincing 21-7 win by the Colts over the Texans.
Though the Colts lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead the following week in the AFC Divisional Round, Kansas City was the top seed in the AFC that year, while the Colts were only the No. 6 seed; they were expected to lose to NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid’s team.
While the Colts carried a two-game winning streak over the Texans into the season, Indianapolis had to deal with a complete shocker by seeing franchise quarterback Andrew Luck retiring before the end of the preseason. Fortunately, Reich can really coach and had complete faith in backup signal-caller Jacoby Brissett to lead the way in 2019.
Now entering Thursday Night Football in Week 12, the Colts have a chance to take a commanding lead in the AFC South with another road victory over the Texans. Both teams are 6-4 on the year, but Indianapolis already won at home against Houston back in Week 7 by a touchdown, 30-23.
Though both teams can make the playoffs, Indianapolis completing the season sweep will be huge for the Colts’ chances to win the AFC South for the first time since 2014. The last time they won the division, Indianapolis made it all the way to the AFC Championship game vs. the New England Patriots. Is a playoff date in Foxborough on the Colts’ horizon this year? Maybe.
While it is still early in their coaching rivalry, early returns suggest that Reich has the advantage in the coaching department over O’Brien. Winning three games in a row over Houston, including a playoff game in Houston and never losing a game in Houston would certainly support that. Though these games have normally been tight, coaching has clearly been a separating factor.
Houston will have the better quarterback on Thursday night, as Deshaun Watson has already emerged as the best signal-caller in Texans franchise history in what is his third season out of Clemson. This game will be at home for the Texans and Houston will be desperate for a victory after getting smoked last week vs. the Baltimore Ravens. Yet, we should still like Reich in this one.
Thursday night wouldn’t be the first time that the Colts were able to beat a division leader on the road in primetime. If you care to remember, Indianapolis stunned the Chiefs on the road in Arrowhead on Sunday Night Football back in Week 5. We shouldn’t expect a shootout at NRG Stadium, just another tight one that the Colts will likely find a way to eke out over Houston.
Since 2002, the Texans have largely controlled the Jacksonville Jaguars in the division. For much of the decade, every time the Colts played the Tennessee Titans, it was a guaranteed victory for Indianapolis. Yes, it’s still early, but if Reich’s Colts can continue to beat O’Brien’s Texans, then this AFC South will once again be controlled by the team headquartered in Indianapolis.
This is one of those games where all the pressure is on O’Brien and his Texans. The Colts already have a win over Houston this year and are playing with Brissett at quarterback. If Indianapolis wins, that would be huge for the Colts. But if the Texans lose yet again to Indianapolis, then the Texans have to accept that O’Brien is now a liability in this budding coaching rivalry with Reich.