The Texans (2-13-1) travel to Indianapolis for a season-ending Sunday showdown against the Colts (4-11-1). The two clubs met in Week 1 at NRG Stadium, and the contest ended in a 20-20 tie. Here are five things to watch when they kick off at noon inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
1) Thoughts with Damar – The Damar Hamlin medical emergency on Monday Night Football reverberated around the NFL. The Texans have players like defensive linemen Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison who were teammates of the Bills' defensive back in 2021. Offensive lineman Jimmy Morrissey played with Hamlin in college at Pitt. Both the Texans and Colts have high school teammates of Hamlin's in Houston defensive lineman Kurt Hinish and Indianapolis safety Rodney Thomas. That trio starred together at Central Catholic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Morrissey explained his perspective on the ordeal.
"It's really not about me or my feelings," Morrissey said. "I'm fine. It's just scary and heartbreaking that a guy I've known for a while and his parents, nothing but good people, have to go through something like this."
Hinish shared about his connection to Hamlin.
"We trained together back home too during the summer," the rookie defensive lineman said. "We've known each other since I've been a freshman in high school, working out together for all these years. Mentally, he's just such a strong person that if anyone was put to this test, if I could see anybody coming out on the other side of this, it would be him."
2) Finish strong – A tough season comes to an end against the AFC South rivals, and Head Coach Lovie Smith and the rest of the Texans are intent on finishing positively. Frequently after 1-score losses this year, Smith would reference his squad's inability to close out games in which they entered the fourth quarter tied or with a lead. Offensive lineman A.J. Cann emphasized that need to finish.
"That's everything we've been preaching all year long, not being able to finish games," Cann said. "Hopefully we can come out and finish this season strong, and leave with a good taste in our mouths."
Getting a third win of 2022 is the main goal for Smith.
"We've been trying to win for a long period of time, every game," Smith said. "None of that has changed. We're going to go to work this week and do everything we possibly can to win this last game."
Defensive lineman Jonathan Greenard echoed Smith's sentiments. He explained what a victory would mean.
"It will be awesome," Greenard said. "This whole team, this organization, the city, everything needs it right now. A win changes everybody's mood, the aura around the building. I think that it clears up a lot of things.
3) Ball Security – The Colts, losers of six in a row, are 32nd in the NFL in turnover differential. They've turned the ball over 13 more times than they've taken it away from other teams. Houston, in comparison, is at minus-1 on the season, and the Texans have won the turnover battle in each of the last four games.
But the only two times they've won games have been when the Texans have taken the ball away twice more than they've turned it over to their opponent.
Indianapolis has turned the ball over six times in the last three games.
4) Enter, Ehlinger – Former Longhorn Sam Ehlinger will start at quarterback for the third time in his NFL career on Sunday. He was the man under center for the Colts in Weeks 8 and 9, as Indianapolis fell to the Commanders at home and the Patriots on the road. Ehlinger came off the bench last Sunday against the Giants, and threw the only touchdown pass of his career.
This season, he's completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 364 yards, with the scoring strike and an interception.
Rookie linebacker Christian Harris and the Texans respect Ehlinger's abilities.
"He's in the NFL for a reason," Harris said. "He obviously makes good throws. We just have to make sure we're reading our keys, having good eyes and reacting and doing what we're supposed to and make sure we're in the right spot."
Ehlinger's not afraid to use his legs. This season he's averaging four carries for 22 yards per game.
5) Indy's Strength – Despite the won-loss record, the Colts have a solid pass defense. They're 10th in the NFL, giving up just 204.3 yards per game. Texans wide receiver Amari Rodgers described the challenge ahead for him and the offense.
"They're a very strong defense with a stout front seven," Rodgers said. "We've got to make plays in the passing game to get big plays made. Be smart, disciplined, and make plays when presented."
Indianapolis' front-seven rose up late in the first meeting between these two clubs. It helped turn what was a 17-point Houston lead in the fourth quarter, to a draw at the end of overtime.