The AFC South was only supposed to belong to the Colts. An 0-2 start left the door open for the Texans and they took advantage. With Andrew Luck on a tear and Ryan Fitzpatrick dragging his team through the mud, the division standings have evened out just in time for the Colts and Texans first of two match ups.
The Texans will…
…try to pressure Andrew Luck. Watt will be the centerpiece, as always, for the Texans front seven, and will command double-teams for the majority of the night. Without the added presence of Jadeveon Clowney, the pass-rush has struggled. Watt leads the team with two sacks, and the team totals just seven through five games. A lackluster rush on Andrew Luck won’t be good enough. The third-year QB is too savvy even under pressure to fold. If given a clean pocket, forget it.
…try to establish the run. Arian Foster went for 157 against a soft Cowboys front last week. The Colts are a bit more stout, ranking 12th against the run this season, allowing just 101.8 yards per game. Foster’s success or failure will decide whether or not this game is competitive. The Texans can’t rely on their passing game to win games because Ryan Fitzpatrick is their quarterback. Even worse, this Colts defense has forced nine turnovers in the last three games. Fitzpatrick has six in his last three. Yikes.
…keep tabs on Ahmad Bradshaw or at least try. DeMarco Murray was effective last week against the 25th-ranked rush defense in the league. Bradshaw, while not as talented, has the veteran savvy and burst to be a threat on the ground and through the air similarly to Murray. Trent Richardson is the lesser of two evils in the backfield, but is still a load between the tackles. The Texans will take their chances against the former Alabama plodder if given the choice.
The Colts will…
…let Luck loose. Andrew Luck has predictably carried this team, and there’s no reason to not give him 30-plus throws against Houston’s 20th-ranked pass defense. Keep an eye on Dwayne Allen who has recorded a touchdown in four of five games this season, and is quickly developing into Andrew Luck’s go-to target in the red zone.
…stack the box against the run. When you’re facing Ryan Fitzpatrick you have a little more leeway to commit defenders to play the run. Indy will have to be wary however as the receivers aren’t the issue for Houston. Andre Johnson still has gas left in the tank with size to boot. DeAndre Hopkins started alongside and over Sammy Watkins at Clemson for a reason. His speed at 6’1” makes him a nightmare to cover man to man, so while the Colts can afford to play the run a bit more aggressively, they can’t forsake the receivers on the perimeter.
…erase J.J. Watt. A lot easier said than done but Watt has been one of the few defenders playing above the line for Houston this season. That’s not to say guys like D.J. Swearinger and Brian Cushing aren’t to be feared, but the rest of the defense has been rather unspectacular. They’re susceptible to be run on with the pairing of talented running backs the Colts possess, and if so, the play action game that will try to isolate guys like T.Y. Hilton deep down field could be truly devastating.
Prediction: Colts 27 Texans 20
It’s a division rivalry between teams that each have their weaknesses. Take away the quarterbacks and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Texans have the better roster. With that said, with such a difference at the game’s most important position, this will be the Colts game to lose, and much like some of the game’s other greats, I don’t bet against Andrew Luck.