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Texans Value of Things: Roses and Thorns— Indianapolis Colts Edition

How will the Colts attack the Texans?

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It all comes down to one week. There is no doubt about it, the game on Saturday is the first playoff game of the season. The winner gets to move on. The loser gets to pack their lockers and prepare for the offseason. Vegas has the game almost at a dead heat as DraftKings has the game as a one point spread as of this writing. Obviously, the availability of certain players makes a big difference as the line will likely shift one way or another in advance of the game.

Two new coaches are vying for the coach of the year honors at the same time. Neither would bring it up this week and rightfully so, but you know that the pundits will bring it up. Both have taken unique paths to get there and both have had remarkable journeys up to this point.

As per usual, we will look at the top five guys for each team according to Pro Football Focus. These players have had 16 games to build these scores, so they are firmly entrenched in their spots, but there will be a surprise or two on the lists. Scores above 80 usually indicate a Pro Bowl type performance. Scores above 70 usually indicate a solid starter at his position.

Indianapolis Colts Top Five

OT Bernhard Reimann— 83.9
DE Samsun Ebukam— 83.5
DT Deforest Buckner— 81.4
OT Braden Smith— 79.1
C Ryan Kelly— 78.4

The names might have changed, but the Indianapolis Colts have been built the same way for years. The strength of their team has always been their offensive line and defensive line. The so-called skill position spots have come after that. That has enabled them to provide consistent pressure on the quarterback and have a consistent running attack no matter who carries the football.

Houston Texans Top Five

WR Nico Collins— 90.0
LB Blake Cashman— 86.9
DE Derek Barnett— 83.9
DE Will Anderson— 83.0
QB C.J. Stroud— 81.1

Absolutely, the story of the season will be the Houston Texans hitting home runs on the second and third overall picks. One might be the rookie of the year overall and the other might be the defensive rookie of the year. That absolutely has been the story, but the story behind the main story is how so-called journeymen like Cashman, Barnett, and Collins have picked up their games. Cashman and Collins absolutely deserve Pro Bowl honors. They may not get it because of the stacked odds at their positions, but being in the conversation is a huge boost.

How will the Colts offense attack the Texans?

The Colts are somehow 10th in total points while being 15th in total yards. That one stat difference reflects a whole lot about this Colts team. They capitalize on turnovers and short fields to outperform their overall talent. They are 13th in rushing yards. While Gardner Minshew is a pro and decently mobile, they would prefer not to win the game through the air. They will need Jonathan Taylor to have a big game or whoever ends up carrying the rock for them.

How will the Colts defense attack the Texans?

The Colts are actually 27th in points allowed. In other words, when they have lost they have been blown out. There is a magical kind of thing that happens when teams grossly outperform their Pythagorean projections. That alone could give Steichen the coach of the year nod. The Colts have been gashed on ground as they are 27th in rushing yards allowed. They must not let Singletary have success because it could be a very long day for them if they allow him and Stroud to cook.

How will the Texans offense attack the Colts?

We’ve seen this team for nearly an entire season. We know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Fortunately, DeMeco Ryans and Bobby Slowik have figured out that Devin Singletary is a lot better in this offense then Dameon Pierce. When Singletary became the primary back this offense became a lot more consistent and dangerous. The Texans hope to do it again so they can take advantage of play action passing and down the field targets. A solid running game will keep the likes of Buckner and Ebukam at bay.

How will the Texans defense attack the Colts?

The addition of Barnett at midseason cannot be overemphasized. The Texans are 10th in sacks and most of those have come since he joined the team. If the Texans can shut down the Colts running attack they have a chance to tee off on Minshew and possibly create some turnovers. Turnovers and short fields are also a way to take the home crowd out of the game.