12 Things to Watch in Sunday's Colts-Texans Game
They don't so much "parade" as much as they "stand around waiting for J.J. Watt to do something."
Last week the Colts pulled off their ninth win of the season. As a result they are right back in the hunt for a division title. All it will take is three more wins, two of which have to come against the team with the best record in the NFL. So you know, no big thing. Here's watch to watch for this week.
1. Watch for a beating. Andrew Luck has been taking a pounding in recent weeks as the health and consistency of the offensive line has gradually deteriorated. At this points, it's a wonder when Luck goes an entire series without taking a big hit. This game is going to come down to Indy's ability to manage J.J. Watt off the right side of the Colts' line. To say the right side is being held together with bailing wire and chewing gum would be an insult to Bazooka Joe himself. Keeping Luck upright is key, and frankly I have no answers for how they are going to do it.
2. Watch the hamstring. Johnathan Joseph is not overrated, but you'd think he was if you saw the Texans' losses to the Packers and Patriots. Joseph is elite when healthy, but in both prime time beatings, he was hobbble with groin and hamstring injuries. Any corner is going to have a difficult time if his legs aren't right. His health is a big key for the Texans going forward. If he's not right, that pass defense has serious issues.
3. Watch for the uniforms. The Texans want to own the division and nothing about the Colts' sudden resurgence makes them feel good. They used to roll out the Battle Red uniforms as a way to fire up fans for this occasion but times have changed. This year they will take the field in their normal gameday attire. I'm not prone to buy into superstition but given the importance of this game they may have wished to save Battle Red Day for a game with huge playoff implications.
4. Watch for early Christmas presents. The Colts aren't exactly a team likely to win the turnover battle, especially on the road. In five of their six road games so far they've turned the ball over multiple times. This starts with protecting Luck and requires the team to stay close until the end. Otherwise Santa might have to appoint Andrew Luck his "special helper" for being so generous.
5. Watch for the unlikely band of heroes. It would be nice to believe the Indianapolis Hobbits could simply walk into Mordor and win. Actaully, Houston is more like the dead marshes. No, the fact is that if Peter Jackson has taught us anything, it's that even magical creatures are no match for a badass sword. The Colts have the magic, but the Texans are swinging the big steel. The Colts have been remarkably consistent at taking down Gollum-sized foes. The Texans are more Troll sized. In Indy's favor is that they stayed up late recently having an inane conversation with the Pats, so who knows? Maybe they'll turn to stone in the daylight.
6. Watch for Avery. The Texans are pretty good against everybody in the receiving department EXCEPT #2 wide receivers. Of course, I'm not sure how Reggie Wayne lining up wherever the heck he wants fits in with that. Nevertheless, the Colts are going to need a big day through the air to keep this one close. In order for that to happen, they'll need Donnie Avery to take advantage of opportunities to make plays down the field, instead of dropping perfect throws in the endzone.
7. Watch for tension. The Texans fans have been irrationally exuberant about their team all season. After a big loss, they are justifiably shaken up. Should the Colts hang close, the crowd will start to get restless. They've already gotten uncomfortable several times this season during games in which they felt the team should be playing better. There's a lot of pressure on the Texans, and if the Colts keep it close, that could break hard in Indianapolis's favor.
8. Watch for earned money. I've been hard on Vontae Davis all year, because despite some obvious talent, his actual production has been mediocre at best. He's probably no better than the second or third best corner on a good defense, but he's all Indy has right now. He has to take on Andre Johnson, at least when Johnson lines up on his side of the field this week. Johnson is the Texans' passing offense, so if Davis can contain him, he'll have gone a long way to proving he was worth the price he paid. If the Texans keep Johnson away from Davis, and he locks down Kevin Walter, fans will praise Davis, but it won't be deserved.
9. Watch for Wade Philips. The Texans haven't been the kind of dominating defense that strikes fear in hearts but they're very good, certainly among the best three or four in the league. They don't have many weaknesses. They're great at getting off the field, allowing conversion on less than one-third of all attempts. They're not great in the red zone nor against the run in 3rd-and-short scenarios. Overall they're the kind of defense that keeps their regressing offense in games, giving them a chance to get the ball back and explode. If Luck finds success against this defense the Texans should not only fear losing the division but question their hopes at winning a title.
10. Watch for the hangover. Yes, this applies to a Houston team that played on Monday night and was beaten up pretty bad. But it also applies to the Colts, who have managed to pull off two unlikely comebacks in a row. Now they travel to Houston to play a team that is leagues better on paper, and they play them on the road, where Andrew Luck, and the entire team, has struggled all season.
11. Watch for more improvement. Vick Ballard wasn't particularly impressive to start the year, but has come into his own during the last two weeks. The Colts need to establish some sort of threat on the ground if they don't want Andrew Luck to lose a limb, and Ballard is the only option right now with the other healthy running backs including Deji Kareem and Mewelde Moore. Ballard has improved week-to-week this year, and it will be interesting to see what he can do against a good defense (No, I do not count Detroit and Tennessee as good).
12. Watch for the prequel. Prequels are big business at the box office, but they often fail to live up to the grandeur of the main story. After all, if the prequel story was all that interesting, someone would have have told it first. The Colts and Texans will likely have some epic battles in the coming year, but this one has a definite Epsiode 1 feel about it. Houston 35 Colts 17
One more question for folks who actually live in Indy. I play in a little band here in Orlando and the owner noticed my Colts stickers and asked if I was from Indy. I told him no but I had visited there a lot and liked it. He said he was from Columbus, Indiana - a place I'd never heard of. He said if I head up there again I should go to Columbus cause it's one of the US's most well planned cities. He said the architecture is beautiful and consistent and that I would be amazed at the little town. You guys know of this place? Is he right?
@buymymonkey He is correct, although perhaps a little overstated. Columbus is about 45 minutes south of Indy. It's well known in the architecture world for having an unusually large number of showcase buildings. Check it out on Wiki.
Nate, I believe you warned the Texans fans before the season even started, that historically Wade Phillips coached defenses had declined dramatically in his second year.
I know they started this season out like gangbusters, and lately they have had their share of injuries... but just wondering if you think teams are "figuring" them out and their decline in play as of late is just the historic trend kicking in? (And the incredible play of JJ Watt has just prevented it from happening sooner.)
@DougEngland Watt's play and the overall crappiness of the AFC really propped them up.
In the end, they'll beat my prediction (15th in PPG). They are 6th in PPG now, but nearly a FG a game worse overall.
However, they are also closer to 15th than they are to 3rd.
If not for the insane, historic play of Watt, they would have come completely unglued. Believe me, I'm watching their point totals closely over the final three weeks.
If they finish up allowing another 40 points, I'll have a hard time claiming I was justified.
If that total is close to 80, it'll be a different story.
I've waited all year to comment on my prediction, but for now it looks like I was probably over-harsh, but more right than wrong.
Remember, even Kirk beat the "superior intellect" and strength of Khan!
"Khan, you've managed to kill everyone around you. But like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target!"
(trying for more nerdy)
Football outsiders see to think that the Colts will respond to Watt with lots of roll outs to the left, play action, screens. I think all of those things sound like reasonable responses to OL problems and a dominant pass rusher. How much of them to you think we will see, besides the mandatory BA bubble screen?
@hankster Zilch. I think we would've seen those plays by now if they were in the playbook.
Of course, though, if they do get implemented and they do work, then great. I'll be happy to be wrong. Being wrong and watching success is far better than being right and watching failure.
@AJ_ "Being wrong and watching success is far better than being right and watching failure." Very well put.
The FO article talks about the " high volume of rolled pockets and play-action concepts" in BA's system, but I don't remember seeing a lot of them. Luck does use play action, but if the line is getting flattened like it was against the Titians I don't see how it will have time to develop.
I guess it's just one more example of the lousy coverage the Colts get. (Outside of the Bleacher report and Colts Authority)
These Indianapolis Hobbits are being led by a Strider-like figure in Luck, so there's something in our favor.
Against: Aragorn wasn't the one who did Sauron in. So we need to find the shortest SOB on the team and get him the ball a LOT while Luck runs around distracting The Big Foes. ;)
@AJ_ Perhaps T.Y. Hilton can be our Frodo. Reggie has referred to him as one of the speedy little Smurfs (or something like that). Perhaps he is the bestest of the Hobbitses.
Nate, this is how I see our team right now. It's a simple description, but I think it's accurate. Our D is average. At best. Good enough to keep a good offensive team in a game. Except for the Jets game, our offense always finds a way to score. But the offense has also put us in the hole with turnovers, forcing a lot of come from behind games. So, you can watch for a lot of different things but the most important 'watch' is for the INT. #9 on your list. Wade is going to show Andrew things he hasn't seen. Key to the game, IMHO.
@smonroe I'd say the D is not average. I'd call it a half-shade beyond terrible.
As for INT's the whole point of our offense is to put the ball in Luck's hands an let him sling it around the field in an attempt to win. High risk throws and INT's are part of the offensive plan as much as awe inspiring touchdowns. What we really can't afford is drops in the endzone like Avery's last game.