Welcome to the biggest Houston Texans game in three years.
There's much talk about how the Texans have never won in Indianapolis. The players and coaches deny it's a factor. Maybe they are right.
As someone who has seen every snap of every loss up there I can tell you it's a tough place to play. Long ago, Peyton Manning trained the crowd to be ultra-quiet when he was on the field. Indy fans complied, as the stadium sounded like the patrons at Augusta National observing putts on the 18th.
But it goes way beyond that. The Colts have always seemed to rise to the occasion against the Texans. Look no further than the eventual 2-14 team back in 2011 that would triumph in Week 16 with former Texan Dan Orlovsky at the helm. To add to the Texans pain, the win didn't even knock Indy out of the number one draft slot, enabling them to take Andrew Luck. Plus it took away the new AFC South Champions' shot at a first round bye in the playoffs.
And speaking of playoffs, the 2012 Texans could have clinched home field advantage throughout if they could only knock off the Colts in Indianapolis on the final day of the season. They didn't.
In the series history, of course you'll find big numbers racked up by the likes of Manning, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. But even guys like Melvin Bullit, who had five of his seven career picks come against Houston, have shined. Andre Johnson has just 31 catches this year but six of them happened against the Texans, plus two of this three touchdown receptions.
Last time these two teams played, Matt Hasselbeck got the win after being on what Chuck Pagano described as "his deathbed." Last year in Indy, the Texans held a healthy Colts team to their lowest home point total of the season yet still lost 17-10 after Ryan Fitzpatrick was injured in the first half. And there have been other close-but-no-cigar games up there, the missed field goal at the buzzer in 2009 ranking high on the pain meter.
Houston is 4-23 all time against Indianapolis. Two of the wins came against Manning, one versus Kerry Collins and another in their first ever matchup with then-rookie Andrew Luck. Not winning on the road isn't quite the 'Curse of the Bambino' but it's a streak the Texans must stop.
And to nit-pick a bit, the schedule makers haven't been kind to Houston in this series. For the sixth consecutive year, the Texans are on the road for the second matchup. Having this one at home would be huge but there's nothing they can do about it.
Maybe this is the way it has to get done - in a place they have never won with so much on the line. Having a game like this to look forward to is why we love football. And we'd love it even more if the Texans could come home with a victory.