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2018 Colts Preview: Colts/Texans, Week 14

2018_0930_HOU_06200

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts (6-6) face their most pivotal contest of the 2018 season when they travel south to take on the Houston Texans (9-3) for the second time this year.

The Texans defeated the Colts, 37-34, in overtime back in Week 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium, which catapulted Houston into a nine-game win streak. The Colts regained control of their season since then, going 5-3 following the loss.

While the Texans control the AFC South and are the AFC’s No. 3 playoff seed, the Colts find themselves at No. 9, and are within one game of five other teams.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
  • Houston; NRG Stadium
  • TV: CBS — Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (color) and Steve Tasker (sideline)
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, check here
  • Radio: WFNI “1070 The Fan” and WLHK “HANK FM” — Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Jim Sorgi (color) and Caroline Cann (sideline) | ESPN Radio — Marc Kestecher (play-by-play), Bill Polian (color) and Ian Fitzsimmons (sideline)

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Colts lead, 25-8, and are 11-5 against the Texans at NRG Stadium. The Texans have won four of the last six dating back to 2015.
  • Last game — Week 4 of 2018. The Texans won, 37-34 (OT).

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Texans:

  • HC/OC Bill O’Brien
  • DC Romeo Crennel
  • STC Brad Seely

LAST WEEK

Colts:

  • Lost vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8), 6-0

Texans:

  • Won vs. Cleveland Browns (4-7-1), 29-13

INJURY UPDATE

Colts:

  • TE Mo Alie-Cox (calf): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • DL Denico Autry (back): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Friday
  • CB Nate Hairston (ankle): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Wednesday, did not practice Thursday, full participant Friday
  • WR T.Y. Hilton (shoulder): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday, limited participant Friday
  • DL Margus Hunt (knee): QUESTONABLE — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday, limited participant Friday
  • WR Dontrelle Inman (shoulder): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • C Ryan Kelly (knee): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • CB Chris Milton (hamstring): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Wednesday, did not practice Thursday, limited participant Friday
  • S Mike Mitchell (calf): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Texans:

  • WR Keke Coutee (hamstring): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • OL Zach Fulton (hand): OUT— Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • CB Johnathan Joseph (neck/shoulder): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • OLB Brennan Scarlett (ankle): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Containing Deshaun Watson, Lamar Miller On The Ground — In Week 4, Watson and Miller combined for 90 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and Miller has compiled at least 100 yards from scrimmage in five of the Texans' last six games. Allowing slippery runners to pick up back-breaking first downs can doom a defense, so the Colts' defense will need to contain the pair.
  • Keep Up The Pressure On Watson — The Colts sacked Watson seven times in their previous meeting, and he's been sacked 15 times over the last four games. If the Colts can keep the pressure up on him in obvious passing situations (while not allowing him to pick up first downs with his feet), they'll get off the field and get the ball back to Andrew Luck and the offense.
  • Colts' Aggressive Play-Calling — The Colts have come up empty with a handful of their fourth-down attempts this season, one of which was on a 4th and 4 in overtime in Week 4, which led to the Texans taking over and kicking the game-winning field goal. Last week in a 6-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts were 0-of-3 on fourth down. Head coach Frank Reich said the Colts will continue to be aggressive, however, but you can imagine there may be adjustments to how they choose fourth-down play-calls moving forward.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Texans CB Johnathan Joseph — These two have history, especially including their scuffle in Week 17 last season. Despite missing much of the first game this season with chest and hamstring injuries, Hilton still went over 100 yards on just four catches. The majority of that damage was done against Joseph, who allowed all but one of Hilton's receptions. On the day, Hilton worked Joseph for three catches (five targets) for 100 yards (33.3 avg). All three went for first downs, and Hilton had 26 yards after catch.
  • Colts RB Nyheim Hines/TE Eric Ebron vs. Texans LB Zach Cunningham/S Tyrann Mathieu — Ebron and Hines were outstanding pass-catchers for Luck in the first matchup, combining for 14 catches for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Texans defenders Cunningham and Mathieu are likely to be assigned to either Colt in this scenario throughout the game. Even though Houston won, Mathieu has had this rematch circled on his calendar, feeling he didn't play his best game against Luck and the Colts passing game.
  • Colts OTs Anthony Castonzo/Braden Smith vs. Texans EDs Jadeveon Clowney/J.J. Watt — Denzelle Good was the Colts' starting right tackle in the first go-around, and his primary responsibility was guarding Watt. The Texans' All-Pro defender had the upper hand, racking up two sacks and five hits/hurries on Luck. This time, Smith is the Colts' starter at right tackle. “I think Braden (Smith) stacks up physically really well with him," Colts head coach Frank Reich said of Smith's matchup with Watt. "You know Braden is a big, strong man and obviously, so is J.J. Watt. So I think one-on-one in a strength versus strength I think J.J. Watt brings a lot of experience and a lot of elusiveness. He’s not only strong, but he’s very good in everything. It will be a good challenge for Braden, but we feel confident he will be ready.”
  • Colts CB Pierre Desir vs. Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins — Desir oftentimes finds himself matched up with Hopkins, who is one of the game's best offensive players and who likely has the best hands in the league. Even though Desir tends to cover Hopkins well, some of Hopkins' catches look like the workings of science fiction. He's going to get his catches, but all the Colts can ask of Desir is to continue covering him well.

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Andrew Luck (3,360 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (583 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (787 yards)
  • Touchdowns — TE Eric Ebron (12)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (123)
  • Sacks — DL Denico Autry, LB Darius Leonard (6.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (2)

Texans:

  • Passing — QB Deshaun Watson (3,031 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Lamar Miller (876 yards)
  • Receiving — WR DeAndre Hopkins (1,115 yards)
  • Touchdowns — WR DeAndre Hopkins (8)
  • Tackles — LB Benardrick McKinney (84)
  • Sacks — DE J.J. Watt (11.5)
  • Interceptions — S Justin Reid (3)

COMPARING 2018 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 9th (377.9 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 8th (27.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 10th (271.0 YPG)
  • Running offense — 20th (106.9 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 2nd (48%)
  • Red zone offense — 9th (66.0%)
  • Total defense — 11th (347.8 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 3rd (19.6 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 15th (243.8 YPG)
  • Sacks — 19th (30)
  • Running defense — 12th (104.1 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 27th (43%)
  • Red zone defense — 6th (50.0%)
  • Time of possession — 8th (31:11)
  • Turnover differential — 14th (+2)

Texans:

  • Total offense — 12th (374.0 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 12th (25.2 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 22nd (233.2 YPG)
  • Running offense — 3rd (140.8 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 15th (40%)
  • Red zone offense — 25th (49.0%)
  • Total defense — 10th (341.5 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 15th (23.2 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 18th (250.2 YPG)
  • Sacks — 10th (34)
  • Running defense — 5th (91.3 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 15th (39%)
  • Red zone defense — 27th (71.0%)
  • Time of possession — 25th (29:24)
  • Turnover differential — 8th (+8)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • This week, the Colts made the following moves: Elevated WR Daurice Fountain to the active roster from the practice squad, waived TE Clive Walford, signed OT De'Ondre Wesley and TE Billy Brown to the practice squad and placed TE Je'Ron Hamm to the Practice Squad Injured list.
  • Luck needs one rushing touchdown to pass Bert Jones (14) for the second-most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in franchise history. With three passing touchdowns, Luck will tie Andy Dalton (167) for the sixth-most passing touchdowns in a player's first seven seasons in NFL history.
  • Hilton needs one receiving touchdown to pass Jim Mutscheller (40) for the seventh-most receiving touchdowns in franchise history. Hilton will also tie Raymond Berry and Dallas Clark (41) for the third-most receiving touchdowns by a Colt in their first seven seasons. Hilton needs one 150-yard receiving game to pass Marvin Harrison (11) for the most such games in franchise history. With 10 receptions, Hilton will tie Reggie Wayne (494) for the second-most receptions by a Colt in their first seven seasons.
  • Ebron needs one touchdown reception to pass Dallas Clark (11) for the most in a single season among tight ends in franchise history. With one touchdown, he will also tie Vernon Davis, Tyler Eifert and Antonio Gates for the third-most overall touchdowns (13) by a tight end in a single season in NFL history.
  • Kicker Adam Vinatieri needs one game played to become just the third player in NFL history to reach 350 regular seasons games played. He will also tie Marvin Harrison (190) for the ninth-most games played in franchise history. With two made field goals from 40-49 yards, Vinatieri will pass Gary Anderson (161) for the most from that distance in NFL history. Vinatieri needs one made field goal from 50-plus yards to tie Phil Dawson and John Kasay (42) for the fourth-most from that distance in NFL history.
  • Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on the different challenges they face against the Texans offense: “Yeah, these guys are a huge challenge in terms of just – number one, they are running the ball because they have the two runners back there and then with the quarterback aspect of it (with) the quarterback runs, the designed runs and then also the scrambles. That creates a huge issue for our defense. Then obviously the players they have on the outside (and) the perimeter part of the field creates matchup issues out there. Then with the diversity of their scheme, their coaches do a really good job with that too. So it will be a challenge from top to bottom and from all aspects of our positions and coaches and all those things. So it’s going to be a big challenge for us on Sunday.”
  • Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni on the similarities between Jacksonville and Houston's defensive front: “I think that Houston has the guys on the edge. Jacksonville has guys on the edge that are really good, 91 (Yannick Ngakoue) is a great player, Calais Campbell is a great player. I think the Houston guys are a little bit better pass rushers. I know Jacksonville last year had a lot of sacks and Calais Campbell might have led the league last year, but J.J. Watt is known as a great pass rusher. Jadeveon Clowney is just disruptive and can really get after the passer too. He’s very disruptive in how he plays the game. So there are similarities. I think that Houston actually rushes the passer a little bit better than Jacksonville. So it will be a challenge for us to go in there, into a hostile environment and protect Andrew (Luck).”

AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-2) (Baltimore Ravens [7-5])
  2. New England Patriots (9-3) (@ Miami Dolphins [6-6])
  3. Houston Texans (9-3) (Indianapolis Colts [6-6])
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1) (@ Oakland Raiders [2-10])
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (9-3) (Cincinnati Bengals [5-7])
  6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5) (@ Kansas City Chiefs [10-2])
  7. Tennessee Titans (7-6) (Jacksonville Jaguars [4-8])
  8. Miami Dolphins (6-6) (New England Patriots [9-3])
  9. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) (@ Houston Texans [9-3])
  10. Denver Broncos (6-6) (@ San Francisco 49ers [2-10])

NEXT WEEK

Colts:

  • Dallas Cowboys (7-5) (home)

Texans:

  • New York Jets (3-9) (away)

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