J.J. Watt has 9 sacks in his last five games. (Dave Einsel/AP)
Is J.J. Watt the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year? If not, good luck convincing the Indianapolis Colts.
Watt took advantage of a beaten-up Indianapolis offensive line to absolutely terrorize Andrew Luck Sunday, in a 29-17 Texans win that clinched for them the AFC South title. He finished with 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, [si_launchNFLPopup video='91000dd1bf37487ba75e46feec422ba7']three sacks[/si_launchNFLPopup] and a crucial forced fumble, while living in the Indianapolis backfield.
That forced fumble turned out to be one of the game's biggest plays. With Houston leading 10-0 early in the second quarter, Watt stood up Mewelde Moore on a run from the 1-yard line. The ball popped out of Moore's grasp and Houston's Tim Dobbins pounced on it, costing the Colts a shot at seven points.
Watt's three sacks, meanwhile, moved him to 19.5 for the year, tying him for the league lead with San Francisco's Aldon Smith (who plays Sunday night). The Texans' defensive end needs just three sacks over the season's final two weeks to match Michael Strahan's single-season sack record of 22.5.
The Colts knew that they faced a tough task Sunday -- Watt has torched just about every line he's faced, and Luck's team headed into Houston minus starting center Samson Satele and right tackle Winston Justice.
Watt took full advantage, with the division title on the line.
SI.com's Jim Trotter had Watt in third place for Defensive Player of the Year on his most recent Awards Watch ballot, behind Smith and Von Miller.
You easily could make a case for any of those three, meaning that the DPOY will be just as difficult as MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year -- all of which are being hotly contested by a handful of guys.
It's hard to ignore what Watt has done in his sensational second year, though. He has been the best defensive player on what is, at least in the standings, the AFC's best team.