5 Things to Watch for During Sunday's Colts/Texans Game
The new year of Eyes in the Backfield kicks off today, and a familiar face is absent from the Colts roll call. Even without Peyton, the boys in blue still have horseshoes on their helmets, and that means I'll be there cheering them on. This Sunday, the Colts take on division rival Houston with Kerry Collins taking snaps. What can fans expect from Collins? Make sure that you keep your eyes on these things:
1. Watch the protection. The Colts line is facing one of the league's best pass rushers in Mario Williams. Meanwhile, they've switched from protecting the never-sacked Peyton Manning to the oft-sacked Kerry Collins. Keeping Collins upright will be a challenge. I'm not saying Collins is a statue, but his middle name is David*. The Colts can try and protect Collins by limiting his throws and keeping two tight ends in the game. In fact, the Colts offense takes on a fascinating dynamic when Tamme and Clark play together. It's entirely possible that the two of them together could create matchup difficulty for the Texans defense while also affording an extra blocker to stymie the Texans pass rush. If the Colts can keep Collins from taking more than a sack or two, they may be able to keep the game close.
*Ok, it's Michael, but that's not nearly as good a line, so I lied. On the bright side, I made you picture Kerry Collins naked**, so you're welcome.
**Ok, so you didn't picture Collins naked when I called him David, but you did once I mentioned it. Gotch ya'.
2. Watch the ground and pound. We know Houston will run the ball on Indy, but the Colts will look to do the same to the Texans. The Colts obviously want to limit Collins' throws seeing as how he has only been running the offense for two weeks. That means plenty of Joe Addai and Delone Carter. Addai always has excellent games against his hometown team. In 9 games against Houston, Addai has averaged 70 yards a game, 4.6 yards a carry, 3 catches, and 1 TD a game. With the defensive changes the Texans have undergone, the Colts could choose to pound the ball right at Mario Williams. Williams is a good run player, but will be working out of a new position in Wade Phillips defense. The Texans have a lot of tape on the Colts, but probably nothing could prepare them for a smash-mouth attack. Of course, that strategy might work a little better if the Colts had actually practiced it during the preseason.
3. Watch for ball security. The Texans enter this game as heavy favorites, not only on Sunday but to take the AFC South crown for the first time. In all honestly, they are likely the better team. One of the best ways for a superior football team to blow a game is turnovers. The Colts defense was awful in forcing turnovers in 2010 (28th in NFL). The best player suiting up for Indy on Sunday is Dwight Freeney. If there is anyone who can alter the course of a game it's Freeney and Mathis. Houston did turn the ball over 3 times in last year's games, but was excellent on the season finishing fourth in fewest turnovers (2nd in lost fumbles). The Colts cannot win a straight fight with the Texans offense. They are going to have generate short fields and defensive scores. Look for the Texans to protect the football, knowing that a conservative game plan against the Colts could well pay off.
4. Watch for nervous expectation. The Texans have a short, but wonderful history of choking against the Colts. Now they get to open the season knowing that if they put Indy down 14 points, the Colts aren't going to come roaring back. Houston has had many second half leads against Indy, but only twice have they ever posted a victory. Head coach Gary Kubiak knows that if his team can't win the division this year, he'll never coach again in the NFL. The Texans' fans know this is a game they should win, and win handily. They are likely to be exuberant if the Texans jump off to an early lead, but if the Colts can somehow hang around, the Texans might crack. This is an absolute must-win for Houston, and all the pressure is on them.
If only emotion made any difference. If only choking was something I even believed in.
5. Watch for a blowout. I love the Colts. I will root hard for them. Kerry Collins on two weeks prep behind a makeshift offensive line is not my idea of a winning formula, however. Houston 38 Indianapolis 10.