The Houston Texans need a win this weekend at Indianapolis to secure a bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
They also want to build some momentum instead of limping into the postseason despite their 12-3 record. Houston had a chance to secure home-field advantage last week, only to post its worst offensive performance of the season in a 23-6 loss to the Vikings.
"It's not important, it's crucial, because in order for you to get to where you want to be, you have to be playing your best ball," veteran linebacker Bradie James said. "And that's what we've been working on this week. Guys have been frowning during the holiday time. So that means we should respond well."
They now have to win at Indianapolis, where the Texans are 0-10. The Colts, who went 2-14 last season, are 10-5 this season and have already secured a playoff spot.
"This is like a playoff game for us," quarterback Matt Schaub said. "This is a team that is in the playoff themselves and we're in their building. With all that we can gain from playing well and getting a win on the road, it's definitely a playoff-type game."
Schaub and the offense should get a lift from the return of running back Arian Foster, who missed most of the second half of Sunday's game because of an irregular heartbeat in a game in which Houston rushed for a season-low 34 yards. He has practiced all week and coach Gary Kubiak said he will play Sunday.
He said since it had happened to him before, the medical staff knew exactly how to handle it on Sunday.
"Anytime something like that happens that's unusual, so it concerns you," Kubiak said. "At least it's something that they had a little history with and they could deal with."
This is Houston's second meeting with the Colts in the last three weeks. Houston's only win in the last three games came in a 29-17 victory over the Colts two weeks ago.
"I think that's the biggest thing is to get the confidence," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. "We have a very confident team when we get things going in the right way. I think we will. I think our guys will respond."
Though much of the focus this week has been on the poor play of the offense, the defense is also looking to get better in its last game before the postseason. Defensive end J.J. Watt liked how the unit played in the first meeting against the Colts, but hasn't been happy with its performance in other recent games.
He has already set a franchise record with 20½ sacks, leaving him 2½ shy of breaking Michael Strahan's single-season sack record.
"It's on my mind," Watt said of the sack mark, "but winning is No. 1 by far. I had someone ask me (Tuesday), would you rather win the game or get the sack record? There is no debate whatsoever. I'd much rather win the game, but then I said I would love to win the game and get the sack record."
Watt had 10 tackles, including three sacks and forced a fumble, in Houston's first game against Indianapolis.
Kubiak said it's a big week for his veterans to step up and help get the team headed back in the right direction. He doesn't really have to say anything to those players because they know what needs to be done.
After making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, Kubiak is looking for his team to do more this year.
"There's another level that you play the game at," Kubiak said. "There's another level of expectations. There's another level of responsibility, and that's why you see a lot of the same people in the playoffs all the time ... because they find ways to raise that level. To me that's the next step for this organization."
NOTES: Tight end Owen Daniels sat out of practice on Thursday with a sore hamstring, but Kubiak said he should be OK for Sunday. ... LB Brooks Reed, who returned last week after missing three games with a groin injury, is doing well this week and Kubiak said he expects him to play more than he did against the Vikings.
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