The Houston Texans open the 2022 season with the Indianapolis Colts tomorrow, and DraftKings Sportsbook has the Texans as 8-point underdogs. We caught up with Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) of Stampede Blue in advance of the game. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions before the game and we answered a few of his.
What are your expectations for the Colts this season?
“The expectations for the Colts this season are at minimum a playoff berth. Jim Irsay, the Colts owner spent the entire offseason telling the world he won’t tolerate another season like last year. Short of a strong season and at least one competitive playoff game, heads will roll in Indy.”
Who are some unsung or unheralded players that we know about this year?
“I’ll give you one guy on both sides of the ball. On offense, the line has been a strength since 2018 but this year the line has two starters, one at left tackle, Matt Pryor and the other at right guard, Danny Pinter. Pinter was a fifth round pick in 2020 out of Ball State, his testing numbers were crazy but the tape showed a guy that was going to need serious time in the weight room. The Colts have decided he’s ready to start in year three, Colts fans seem skeptical. On defense the entire league is going to get introduced to third round rookie safety Nick Cross. The Colts traded up back into the third round to get Cross, a 20 year old from Maryland. At the time most assumed he would be a rotational guy that would need time to develop. Instead he light up camp and the preseason and Colts DB coach Ron Milus was quoted as saying he’s never seen a 20 year old like Cross and Milus has been coaching for 32 years.”
What are the keys for a Colts victory over the Texans in Week 1?
“The key to victory is for Frank Reich’s offense to start faster than it ever has before. Year in and year out Reich’s offenses have gotten off to slow starts and if the Colts want to win this game, the offense is going to have to hit the ground running.”
What do the Texans look like to someone from the outside looking in?
“I might be the wrong guy to answer this question. I’ve spent the past five years doing opponent scouting reports for Stampede Blue. I watched more Texans tape last year than Colts tape. But from my perspective, as a fan of the Colts, I’m worried about Davis Mills. He played 14 games at Stanford. He entered the draft with eligibility and then he was thrust into a starting role right away in his rookie year. All of that tells me that he should have fallen flat on his face. With such limited experience, a rookie playing the hardest position in football, he should have been an abject failure and he wasn’t. Instead he was the second best rookie QB, he played better than he had any right to and I’m worried about what he might develop into with more experience. Beyond that the Texans handling of David Culley and then hiring of Lovie Smith was sloppy and seemed panicked. But again I might be biased. I’m the guy that broke the story that Jack Easterby was calling players moms (no it wasn’t Deshaun’s agent, I don’t have any idea if he worked for David Mulugheta).”
Matt Ryan will be the Colts third starting quarterback in three seasons. Do you think he will be the answer for the Colts?
“Matt Ryan is actually the fifth starting quarterback in five years, which is the main reason the Colts offense under Frank Reich always gets off to such slow starts. Is he the answer? It depends on what you mean. He was better than any other option the Colts had following the nightmare that was Carson Wentz. Frankly, I’m shocked he feel into the teams lap the way he did. He’s the best QB the Colts have had since Luck and Reich’s system is so QB friendly, Matt Ryan, what’s left of him, should have a really good year as long as he makes good decisions and plays within the system.”
We want to wish Chris and the Colts the best of luck this season (after week one of course) and thank him for his time. This will hopefully be a regular feature this year before all of our games this season. We are looking forward to catching up with Chris later on in January when we have our rematch.