After being pummeled by the Tennessee Titans just 17 days after the Colts did the same to them, the Indianapolis Colts head to Houston feeling flat and disillusioned. The Colts sit at 7-4, good for second place in the AFC South, and currently hold the last Wild Card berth in the AFC Playoffs. There may not be a team with more to prove down the stretch than the Colts. With Indy’s postseason hopes hanging by a thread, the Texans are in a prime place to cut the cord on a divisional rival’s dream.
The Colts are easily one of the biggest mysteries in the league. They’ve only beaten two teams with winning records, but those two teams are the Packers and Titans. A Week One loss to the Jags, which looms large over Indianapolis and could jeopardize their entire season down the stretch, illustrates their vulnerability to unconventional offenses. While the Texans are in no place to feel good about themselves, especially after this week’s news, they are in position to drag the Colts down into the pit of misery with them.
Deshaun Watson is performing some of the finest quarterbacking this franchise has seen. Behind an improving offensive line and finally free to run, Watson has been rejuvenated after a lackluster first half of the season. Over the last six games, Watson is 141-200 (71%) for 1,750 pass yards, 16 total TDs, and 0 turnovers. Those numbers are downright absurd. Outside of Lamar Jackson, the Colts haven’t played a quarterback that can scramble as well as Watson. If the Texans can get Watson involved in the run game, they could give the Colts’ defense fits.
That may not be enough to topple the Colts. Their secondary has been stout throughout the season, and their defense as a whole has been difficult to put points up against. Indy has a top ten defense by points allowed. Rookie defensive back Rock Ya-Sin, their second-round pick last year, is the defense’s weakest point. Expect the Texans to pick on Ya-Sin when he takes the field. Outside of him, the Colts have one of the better defenses in the league top to bottom.
Their offense is a Hydra-like creature featuring a litany of options and mouths to feed. TY Hilton isn’t the game-breaker he used to be, but he’s still the Colts’ leading wide-receiver. The Colts’ leading pass catcher is running back Nyheim Hines, who has 44 receptions, but they have seven players with over 20 catches. Stopping Hines and forcing Philip Rivers to throw the ball down the field will be the defining factor in the Texans stopping the Colts on Sunday. The Colts should be without rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, and that will certainly limit their ability to run the ball; the Colts haven’t matched preseason expectations when it comes to moving the ball on the ground.
Another block from the Colts’ Jenga tower, left tackle Anthony Castonzo, will be out with an MCL sprain. I expect the Texans to test the Colts’ offensive line without their franchise left tackle. The Colts are 2-13 when Castonzo doesn’t play or finish a game. Replacing him is adequate enough swing tackle Le’Raven Clark.
It would also be easy for the Colts to look past the Texans. The Colts have two upcoming games against the Raiders and Steelers that will also have playoff implications. The Colts should be coming into NRG Stadium on Sunday both looking back on what was and looking forward to what is to come, but a re-emerging Texans team twice stands in their way over the next three weeks. That team, led by Deshaun Watson, even without Will Fuller and Bradley Roby, is quite capable of ruining the Colts’ season.