INDIANAPOLIS – When the prime-time lights were turned out on October 20, the Colts had a 39-33 win over unbeaten Denver.
Houston played well that day, but lost at undefeated Kansas City, 17-16. The 5-2 Colts and 2-5 Texans have a key game on Sunday.
Houston is trying to bounce back into AFC South contention. Indianapolis hopes to extend its lead and earn a third road win in the season’s first half.
Something has to give, and here are SEVEN VICTORY KEYS:
JOHNSON, SHOTGUN/PISTOL – Case Keenum hit six passes of at least 25 yards in his rookie starting debut at Kansas City, and Andre Johnson is a potent weapon Houston has used against the Colts religiously. Johnson (11 receptions, 150 yards) was big at Reliant Stadium last year, and his 105 career receptions (2nd) and 1,275 yards (3rd) are some of the best-ever totals by an opposing receiver. Chuck Pagano says Keenum knows where to go with the ball. He did so in college with an NCAA-best 19,217 yards. Compared to other QBs, there is only a pamphlet available rather than a book. He hit six receivers last week, with four having receptions exceeding 27 yards. Don’t be surprised if a young QB frequents a battled-tested target. Don't be surprised if the versatile Keenum uses the shotgun/pistol attack, too.
LOW WATTAGE – J.J. Watt is the type of player every team wants. With 20.5 sacks and 16 passes defensed, he earned 2012 AP Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors. At Houston against the Colts, Watt had three sacks, six loss-tackles, four QB hits and a forced fumble. He had 95 plays resulting in zero or negative yardage last year – 56 on passing plays, 39 on running plays, 26 inside FG range, 47 on first down, six in OT. Get it, he’s everywhere. Keep Sunday’s prime-time lights on low wattage.
STRONG COMMITTEE – How the Colts function without
REBOUND ON ROAD – The Colts were ineffective at San Diego two games ago after having a 27-7 blowout win in all phases at San Francisco and with an efficient output in a 37-3 win at Jacksonville. A team that was 4-4 on the road in 2012 needs to up its 2-1 road record this Sunday. Reliant Stadium has been a rough venue of late. Lopsided defeats in 2010 and 2011 were followed with a less-than-sharp game last year. Houston is in a “win-now” mode at 2-5. Another loss on this Battle Red Day could damage their hopes severely, while keeping Indianapolis firm as division leaders and conference near-leaders.
BRING HEAT –
QUOTE TO NOTE (Chuck Pagano on what makes Houston defense so good)
“They’ve got game-wreckers all over the place. They got a front seven that is as good as anybody in football. They’ve got probably the best defensive player in football in J.J. Watt, two edge guys that are tough and rugged. The inside backers are outstanding. (Johnathan) Joseph and (Kareem) Jackson (are) on the corners, Eddie Reed, a future Hall-of-Famer, at safety. They got a tremendous front. (It’s) very hard to run the football on them. When you drop back to pass, (it’s) very hard to protect the quarterback.”