- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: The Colts finished 11-5 and, unless both the Patriots and Broncos lose, denied the Texans the chance to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Houston completes the regular season at 12-4 with losses in three of their past four games and little momentum. We won’t know if they have to play Cincinnati in the first round next weekend until we see what Denver and New England do today. The Colts will be heading to Baltimore looking to spring a wild-card-round upset.
What I liked: Indianapolis split the season series with the Texans in Chuck Pagano’s return to the sideline for the Colts. The atmosphere was electric for the big return, and the team fed off it, while the Texans were too flat for too long. The Colts got two giant plays in the second half -- a 101-yard kickoff return from Deji Karim and a 70-yard Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton touchdown pass. They also got pass pressure on Matt Schaub from a bunch of guys most people have never heard of, including Lawrence Guy, Clifton Geathers and Jamaal Westerman.
An early verdict: Schaub takes a lot of heat for not performing in the clutch, but he has not played in a lot of games with huge stakes. This one was significant, and he didn’t rise to the occasion. He got picked off by Vontae Davis in the first half when he was late and short to a wide-open James Casey deep and he forced a fourth-quarter pass for Andre Johnson in the end zone that Davis raced under to collect. In the blog this week, we debated Luck versus Schaub this season. Today it was clear. Advantage: Luck.
Injury concerns: Colts left guard Joe Reitz left the game with a head injury and will likely face concussion tests this week to get back in the lineup for the playoffs. Texans inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton left the game with a hip problem, which is what had him on the PUP list for a long stretch of the season.
Great clock work: The Colts got the ball with 9:46 remaining in the game, and methodically moved down the field, milking time and killing the chances of the Texans to get it back and threaten the lead. At the two-minute warning with the ball at Houston’s 14-yard line, Pagano and the man who filled in for him, Bruce Arians, shared a big hug on the sideline. The Colts wound up kneeling out the clock.
What’s next: The Colts will play at the Ravens, the No. 4 seed, next weekend. The Texans will either host Cincinnati, or they’ll have a week off before making their playoff debut.