Both the Texans and Colts went 4-12 last year. The Texans were crowned last place in the AFC South after losing both of their games to the Colts. The big reason for a downtrodden, displaced, and dejected 2017 for the Texans and Colts was injuries.
J.J. Watt broke his lower leg. Whitney Mercilus tore his pec. Deshaun Watson shredded his ACL like a cheap bag of cheese. D’Onta Foreman tore his Achilles. Tom Savage had a concussion, probably more than once.
Andrew Luck couldn’t even hold a football, let alone throw it, and sat out for the entirety of the 2017 season.
This season, one team is the eventual AFC South champion. The other is a playoff contender. At 9-3 and 6-6, both teams are led by players who missed last season.
Houston has Watt back. Watt has 11.5 sacks (T-4th), 20 quarterback hits, and is tied for third in the league with 36.5 pressures. He also has 35 solo tackles and 14 tackles for a loss, and is the 1(A) on the best run defense in football. After never missing a start in his career, Watt saw the last two seasons snipped short, yet once again, he’s back to being a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Indy got Luck back. This season, Luck has completed 322 of his 489 attempts (67.9%) for 3,360 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. While he is averaging a sub-optimal 6.9 yards per attempt, he’s been sacked only 14 times. Luck is 10th in DYAR and 12th in DVOA. This has happened with T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron as his best receivers and featuring a mediocre at best run game.
Watt, along with Watson, are the reasons for the Texans’ improvement from 2017. Luck, along with a much improved defense, are the reasons for the Colts’ improvement. Both Luck and J.J. are the front runners for the 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Sure, you can throw Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson, and Odell Beckham Jr. on the list, but they haven’t approached the heighs they’ve previously reached.
Between Luck and Watt, my pick is Watt. He’s playing on one of the five best defenses in football (as long as no one throws the ball deep on them). He’s the best run and pass stopping defensive end in football. He’s not 2014 incredible, but he’s still outstanding. The Texans are a better team and will make the NFL Plauoffs, while the Colts may not.
Luck, on the other hand, isn’t even fully back yet. He’s averaging less than seven yards an attempt. He is an intelligent and accurate pick and popper. Another year of throwing the football should lead to a return to the downfield heaving.
Whatever happens on Sunday at NRG Stadium, my pick remains the same. J.J. Watt should win NFL Comeback Player of the Year.