3 takeaways from Texans' 23-19 win vs. Colts in AFC playoff decider

The stakes at hand? The winner would earn a playoff spot while the loser would be eliminated

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It was a playoff game before the playoffs.

The winner between the Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts on Saturday would clinch a spot in the AFC playoffs, while the loser would be eliminated.

After Houston led 14-6 at the interval, Indianapolis came back in the second half and had a chance to potentially win it in the final minute. But on a 4th-and-one, running back Tyler Goodson dropped a would-be first down that essentially iced the game.

With the 23-19 result, the Texans moved to 11-7 while the Colts dropped to 9-8. The Texans are still in contention for the AFC South title if the Jacksonville Jaguars lose at the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Let's analyze the game further with three takeaways:

C.J. Stroud stars in first prime time game

On Houston's very first offensive play from scrimmage, No. 2 overall rookie C.J. Stroud delivered a 75-yard strike to Nico Collins to open the scoring. It was a spectacular opening for a player who has made waves all year despite his youth.

Stroud ended the game completing 20 of 26 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and no picks while leading his team to a road victory in a win-or-go home scenario. He also didn't have three of his top targets in Tank Dell, Robert Woods and Noah Brown. In DeMeco Ryan's first season as head coach, he and a rookie QB are in the playoffs. It's a special job and they will not be an easy out.

Jonathan Taylor shows his worth to Colts

The Stroud versus Anthony Richardson matchup will have to wait until next season, with Gardner Minshew having the chance to guide his team to the playoffs despite being a backup. But Minshew's level was evident as he struggled throughout, completing 13 of 24 passes for 141 yards, no touchdowns and no picks. He also threw the fourth-down pass to Goodson a little behind. If it was on point, who knows how that could've transpired.

But Jonathan Taylor was the reason Indianapolis had a chance, as the star running back logged 188 rushing yards on 30 carries and a touchdown against an elite Houston run defense. There will be questions on why the ball wasn't in Taylor's hands for that fourth-down miss, but the 24-year-old definitely did more than his fair share.

AFC playoff picture

It's not yet known who the Texans will play in the first round of the playoffs since the AFC South is still up in the air, but Houston will be a tough out for whichever team lands that battle. For now, the Texans currently are the No. 4 seed and would face the No. 5 Cleveland Browns at home if the regular season ended today.

They could also be the No. 6 seed and have to travel to face the No. 3 Kansas City Chiefs, which would pit Stroud versus Patrick Mahomes. There's plenty to like about Houston's future but its present is just as scintillating.

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