There is no such thing as a must win for the Colts until the playoffs, but this might be close to it for a number of reason.
- The Texans have never won in Indianapolis. Not even when Peyton Manning was out in 2011. Losing to them this season when they are floundering would be very disappointing to say the least.
- Andrew Luck has never lost back-to-back games in the NFL. The Colts have been fairly good at rebounding after bad losses the past two season, so you don’t want to see that streak broken at home.
- They need to find something that will lead to a win. The offense has been pathetic lately, but last week showed some promise in the second half. That momentum needs to carry over to this week, and turn into a touchdown in the first half for once.
If the Colts drop this game, then its very likely that the team loses the next two and finishes 8-8. Frankly, that’s unacceptable for Colts fans, and likely the ownership. Jim Irsay doesn’t like losing and falling apart against a two win team probably won’t stand. I’m not entirely sure what he’d do, but it might be drastic.
Houston has had an abysmal season. The Texans won their first two, then nothing. Last week they fired Gary Kubiak (who collapsed during halftime when the Colts were at Houston).
Indianapolis has a lot of injuries right now, but with the playoffs basically set anyone with a nagging injury will likely sit out.
The Colts will be without corner Greg Toler, who will miss his sixth straight game. Center Samson Satele is also out, and Mike McGlynn will take over his job this week. After a breakout game last week, wide receiver LaVon Brazill is listed as questionable with a foot injury and hasn’t practiced all week. Griff Whalen was signed to the active roster which could mean Brazill is out against the Texans.
The Texans currently list rookie wide out DeAndre Hopkins as questionable with an ankle injury. He only participated in limited work on Friday and likely will be out this week.
What to watch for:
- Gosder Cherilus vs JJ Watt. Cherilus did a good job when it came to run blocking, but struggled in pass protection against Watt in the first meeting. Watt is just a freak of nature. He is equally good against the run and pass. He doesn’t have a bad, average, or slightly good game all season. Every single time he takes the field he is dominant. His third worst game of the season was against the Colts, and he still managed a sack, four QB hits, and three stops. Neutralizing him isn’t possible, so run plays the opposite direction and hope he has an off day.
- Keep up the Protection. Last week, the Colts didn’t give up a sack against the Bengals. That level of protection needs to be consistent if the Colts are going to have success over the next few weeks (and into the postseason). It might be wishful thinking, but if Andrew Luck stay upright then the chance of convincing win increases.
- Repeat Performance. TY Hilton had the best game of his career against the Texans last time the two teams met. He scored three touchdowns over the final 16 minutes of the game. Overall, Hilton had seven receptions for 121 yards. The next week he had seven more catches for 130 yards, but no TDs. Then his production dropped off and he’s had 17 receptions for 135 yards over four games. Coach Chuck Pagano admitted that he’s been battling a shoulder injury and is now near 100-percent, so he should be due for another big game.
- First Half Score? The Colts haven’t found the end zone in the first half of a game in six weeks. Over that span, they’ve been outscored 114-24. As much as I love to watch Adam Vinatieri do his thing, the Colts desperately need to get a touchdown in the first half, if only to give the defense a rest.
- Sustained Drives. This goes hand-in-hand with scoring in the first half. The Colts have to move the ball, at least so much that they can flip field position on their opponent. They’ve had far too many three-and-outs lately. When the defense is on the field for six-plus minutes, and then gets just a one minute rest it leads to more points for the opponents.
- Tinkering. This is the perfect time for the Colts to not care about winning or losing and start trying new things. The playoffs are set, at least for the Colts, and they can approach the next three games like the preseason. Get creative with playing calling on both sides of the ball, give younger players a bigger role, and go for it more often on fourth down. Basically, Pagano needs to throw out the coaches manual, and become super aggressive.
There is no reason the Colts should lose to the Texans this weekend. Houston has been terrible all season, and unless Andre Johnson and Watt have record breaking games, I can’t see them beating the Colts at home.
That said, this game still feels like a toss up. I have no idea what Colts team will show up on Sunday, but I do know they’ll struggle to score.
Colts win a close one, 24-20.
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