Today the Houston Texans will face a division opponent in the Indianapolis Colts. Houston is coming off a tough loss against the Green Bay Packers; they have also lost their last 3 games and it has out them into a 3 way tie with the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. If the Texans want to make sure they make the playoffs this season, it will be important to win this match-up against and finish strong the rest of the season.
The Colts are coming off a decisive win vs. the New York Jets and are looking to build off that victory and by defeating the Houston Texans and solidify their 1st place position in the ultra-competitive AFC South. This is a must win game of the Colts, as Houston as defeated them already back in Week. If they are swept by the Texans, it could erase any chance of them making the playoffs.
Scouting the Texans:
Offense, It’s Time to Dome-minate!
Last week vs. the Green Bay packers it was apparent that the weather was effecting the performance of the Texans offense. From dropped passes to poor ball security, the Texans only crossed midfield once in the 1st half, and they didn’t score any points until the 3rd quarter. This week the Texans will be playing at Lucas Oil Stadium; an indoor facility which is similar to the Houston Texans Stadium. This means that the Texans won’t have to worry about battling the weather and can focus on more important things; like maintaining possession of the football and scoring touchdowns.
Brock Osweiler is coming off a game where he started off slow in the 2nd half, but finished the game with 2 touchdowns; both of which came in the 2nd half. It will be important for the 26 year old quarterback to get the passing game going in order to keep the Colts on their toes. While Deandre Hopkins had only 2 receptions one went for a 44 yard touchdown to tighten the game up vs. the Packers. Expect Hopkins to be the primary target this week, as the Texans will try to give him the ball early and often. Against the Packers Will Fuller had 5 receptions last week for 59 yards and has proven to be a deep threat that Osweiler can utilize from time to time. Also expect tight ends C.J Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin to provide a safe option of the Texans. Fiedorowicz had a team high 6 receptions while Ryan Griffin had 4 receptions and scored the first Texans touchdown of the game.
The running game is up in smoke. What has once been a reliable component for the Texans offense has teetered off the last 2 weeks. Lamar Miller has been battling injuires and may not even be able to suit up this week. Vs. the Packers, he ran for less than 25 yards and ended the day with a 1.6 yard per carry average. If Miller can’t play vs. the Colts, it will be up to Johnathan Grimes and Alfred Blue to share time in the backfield get the running game going. Against the Packers, Grimes was 3rd down conversion machine; he ran the ball 5 times for 43 yards, 4 of those carries came on 3rd down. Alfred Blue came off the bench and had 5 carries of 38 yards; which included a 25 yard long scamper that proved Blue could provide both toughness and quickness. Another player to watch for is Akeem Hunt who has been filling in for rookie Tyler Ervin. He has shown quickness at times in the backfield and on special teams and could possibly provide a spark on offense.
Defense, Hit hard, Hit Often!
For about 3 quarters, the Houston defense was able to hold Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense to only 7 points. Against Green Bay, The Texans looked like a team of Pro-Bowlers; they were making plays behind the line of scrimmages, hitting Aaron Rodgers, and were even able to produce 2 turnovers. That all changed in the 4th quarter when the Green Bay offense was able to take advantage of a busted coverage due to icy conditions. This long touchdown appeared to have deflated the defense, and they ended up giving another long scoring drive that ultimately put the game out of reach. While the Texans have proved they can take on any offense it will be important to see if they can get off the field quickly and prevent long scoring drives.
When searching for playmakers on the defense, look no further than linebacker Whitney Mercilieus. The Illinois product had a fumble recovery inside the redzone and a sack last week vs. the Packers. The coaching staff is expecting him to have a big game against Indianapolis today as well; in week 6 he had a sack on Colts quarterback Andrew luck that forced a turnover on 4th down. Linebackers Brian Cushing and Bennardrick Mckinney have both proven to be a force on the field; they have the ability to make plays in the backfield and from sideline to sideline. The X factor will be Jadaveon Clowney, who did not play last week due to being injured. If he can suit up today, it will be a big boost for the team.
The defensive backfield has been in a bit of a flux. No later than day after he slipped on the ice that allowed the Green Bay Packers to lead the game, corner-back Charles James III was cut from the team. Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crenel takes pride in how well his defense has played despite losing so many valuable players; but by cutting one of his players he is showing that careless mistakes will not be tolerated. Cornerbacks A.J Boyue and Kareem Jackson have solid corners all year and will have another tall order by playing against a healthy Andrew Luck. Safety Quentin Demps has proven to be a leader from his safety spot and it will be up to him to stop the Colts offense when they run or pass.
Scouting the Colts:
What makes the Colts Offense Go? A Lot of Luck!
Since coming out of Stanford and being drafted in the 1st round Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has proven to be the team leader and main reason the colts are in a position to win the division. Coming off an injury shortened year in 2015, Luck has come back strong, throwing for 23 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. In last week’s matchup vs. the New York Jets, Luck threw for over 250 yards 4 touchdowns and.
This season, his top target has Florida International University alum T.Y Hilton. While he does not boast incredible size, this wide receiver has the speed to cut through any defensive scheme in the NFL; he leads with over 1,000 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns. Tight ends Jack Doyle and Dwayne Allen are also threats to stretch the field; this season they have combined for over 70 receptions and 9 touchdowns. The X factor to look out for in this group is Ole Miss Alum Donte Moncrief. While the amount of receiving yards might now wow you, he leads the team with 6 touchdown catches.
The Colts running game moves behind the ageless wonder Frank Gore. While his numbers won’t get him to the Pro Bowl, Frank Gore is proving at the age of 33 that he still has some tread on his legs to provide a running game for the Colts offense. This season has rushed for over 700 yards and 4 touchdowns. Also in the backfield, watch out for Robert Turbin and rookie Josh Ferguson. Turbin has tied Gore for the number of rushing touchdowns this season with 4 and Ferguson has proven to be able to get open in the passing game. Quarterback Andrew Luck has also been proven to run the ball when need be. This season he has over 250 yards and his last touchdown on the ground came in week 6 vs. the Texans.
Defensively, it’s all about Fundamental Football
While the Colts defense do not produce numbers that will shock the league, they are coming off a game vs. the New Work Jets where they were able to pick off two different quarterback 4 times. Playing what they believe is fundamentally sound defense is what will allow them to when the division. They will need to feed off of their strong performance if they wish to beat the Texans today.
Linebacker D’Quell Jackson is the leader of this team with 79 tackles and a sack. His ability to make plays from sideline to sideline allow him to make plays at any part of the field. On the defensive line Robert Mathis is, Like Frank Gore, proving that age is just a number, providing 3 sacks this season for a pass rush that was in dire need of help.
The defensive backfield of the Colts appear to be excited to play the Texans after coming off an incredible performance vs. the Jets last week. Cornerback Darius Butler has 3 interceptions on the season; and his partner in crime Vontae Davis has flashes of ability against top NFL talent. On the back-end, Safeties Mike Adams and Clayton Geathers have been able to show they can come down and defend the run, or play centerfield and defend the pass. Both safeties will need to be accounted for whenever the Texans offense steps on the field.
This One is for All the Marbles… Or at Least Most of Them
While there are still 3 weeks left in the season this game very well may decide who plays in January and who sits at home during the playoffs. Both teams are in desperate need of this win and will have to improve on their weakness in order to secure the victory. Offensively, they have proven they can march the ball downfield but are unable to score on a consistent basis. Today they will need to have a game where they score early, often, and don’t turn the ball over. For the Colts defense, they have continually let other teams dictate the game and allow offenses to embarrass them. If they can repeat their performance vs. the Jets they should be able to beat the Texans.