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Colts’ division title — and playoff — hopes take a significant hit

HOUSTON — The Indianapolis Colts went from being in control of the AFC South to needing to take care of their business and get help from others after a 20-17 loss to the Houston Texans on Thursday.

A victory would have given the Colts a season sweep of the Texans and sole possession of the division lead. The Colts (6-5) went from having a 74% chance to win the division with a win to seeing those odds reduced to 19% with the defeat.

Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ unit went from being a bend-but-don’t-break group to one that couldn’t stop Houston’s offense from getting chunk plays.

The Colts gave up four pass plays of at least 30 yards, with two of them being touchdowns to Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

The Colts have only one game left against a team that currently has a winning record — at New Orleans — but the Texans, who now have a one-game lead over Indianapolis in the division, also have a favorable schedule down the stretch.

In its final five games, Houston plays only one team — New England — that currently has a winning record. The Texans still have two games left against the Tennessee Titans, who are 5-5.

The Colts blew their chance at trying to send Thursday’s game into overtime when quarterback Jacoby Brissett, not able to find anybody open down the field in Texans territory, came up a yard short of a first down on his fourth-down run with less than three minutes left in the game.

A wild-card spot might end up being the Colts’ best chance to make the playoffs based on Houston’s schedule, and even then that might be tough to accomplish because Pittsburgh (5-5) and Oakland (6-4) — who have both already beaten the Colts this season — are also in the thick of the hunt.

Buy a breakout performance: Running back Jonathan Williams didn’t hurt the Colts in the ground game in Marlon Mack‘s absence. Williams, starting because Mack is out because of a fractured left hand, had 26 carries for 104 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown run. The 104-yard outing followed the career-high 116 yards Williams rushed for against Jacksonville in Week 11 — after running for a total of one yard this season before playing the Jaguars.

Pivotal play(s): Receiver T.Y. Hilton returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games because of a calf injury. The time off — just one light practice during the three weeks he missed — affected Hilton’s performance. He finished with three receptions on six targets for 18 yards while playing on a snap count — and had two of the biggest drops of the game on third down on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter. That’s a drastic drop-off from Hilton’s previous trips to Houston. He entered Thursday averaging 133.3 yards per game against the Texans in his career in games at Houston.

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