The Texans have a chance to secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win Sunday at Indianapolis. Lose, and they could end up as low as the No. 3 seed in the AFC.
The team is well-aware of what is at stake, as the theme in the locker room has been that the Texans are looking at their matchup against the Colts like a playoff game.
"It's no secret; we need to win the game Sunday," Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said after Wednesday's practice. "It's something we've been talking about since last week. None of that's changed. We need to win the game."
If the Texans (12-3) lose Sunday and the Denver Broncos (12-3) and New England Patriots (11-4) both win, the Texans will end up with the AFC's third seed. That would mean they have to play an extra playoff game, a Wild Card matchup next weekend against Cincinnati.
"If you think about it, we win this game, we get a first-round bye, so you can essentially 'win' a playoff game if we win this week," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "We're very focused. We played bad (on Sunday), and we want to come out and rectify that."
Last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings was a missed opportunity to solidify home-field advantage and changed the outlook of a win against the Colts from being almost irrelevant to absolutely critical. A second chance at making the road to the Super Bowl go through Houston in the AFC is something Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown and his teammates will not take for granted.
"The disappointment around here is at an all-time high following that game," Brown said. "But at this point, it's behind us and we're moving on and locked in with a sense of urgency and a focus like I've never seen.
"(It's) definitely a playoff atmosphere. We're treating it that way. It's either win and have home-field advantage and a first-round bye or lose and (possibly) be playing first round of the playoffs. It's a lot at stake here for us, and we're definitely approaching it like a playoff game."
Quarterback Matt Schaub, whose offense was held to just two field goals in Sunday's loss, recognizes the challenge awaiting the Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Texans are 0-10 all-time at Indianapolis.
"This is a team that is in the playoff themselves and we're in their building," Schaub said. "(With) all that we can gain from playing well and getting a win on the road, it's definitely a playoff-type game.
"It's right there in front of us. The most important thing for us is to play better football as a team, especially as an offense. What better way to do that than to go on the road against a team that we know real well? They know us real well and play well in their building. We're looking forward to that."