INDIANAPOLIS – On the active roster, only 11 Colts remain from when the organization last won the AFC South in 2010.
Robert Mathis is one of the bunch who remembers that division flag. It was one of seven he has enjoyed during his AFC South days.
To rekindle that feeling, Mathis knows the 2-5 Texans, who have endured numerous injuries while dropping five straight games, are a team the Colts must prepare for in earnest.
"They are a dangerous team, point blank, period," said Mathis, a member of South-winning Colts teams from 2003-07, 09-10. "Their scheme, the things they do, they do well.
"Make no mistake about it, we're not looking at their record because they are the two-time AFC South champions, and we respect them as such."
Houston snatched the mantle from Indianapolis with a 10-6 record in 2011. The Texans repeated in 2012 with a 12-4 mark. Both seasons included big home wins over the Colts, 34-7 in 2011 and 29-17 in 2012.
Even in the Colts' last division-title season, Houston authored a 34-24 win in the opener at Reliant Stadium.
Though Indianapolis extracted series splits with home wins in each of those years, Pagano says the mindset is firm that despite struggles, this is a repeat division champion.
"We'd be crazy to look at it any differently," said Pagano. "That's exactly how we got to treat it."
A banged-up Houston unit signed five players today to its active roster, among them Deji Karim. Karim was a Colt when these teams met in last year's finale, and he returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown in a 28-16 comeback win.
Among the Texans' transactions today was to put linebacker Brian Cushing on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Additionally, Head Coach Gary Kubiak named Case Keenum to start at quarterback this Sunday in place of Matt Schaub. Keenum opened Houston's last game, an October 20 outing at Kansas City.
Keenum hit 15-of-25 passes for 271 yards against the Chiefs, including completions of 42, 42, 35 and 29 yards, and four different targets caught passes of at least 27 yards. Running backs Arian Foster (hamstring) and Ben Tate (ribs) were hurt in the outing.
Houston fell by a 17-16 margin to the undefeated Chiefs. Houston allowed a big margin at home to evaporate in a three-point overtime loss to Seattle on September 29 – a team Indianapolis had its hands full with in a six-point comeback win the next week.
"We know how good this football team is," said Pagano. "They got the number one defense in the league. They got playmakers on both sides of the ball and they've got runners (and) receivers.
"If they go with (Keenum), we saw him do a nice job last week and give them a chance to win on the road in a tough, hostile environment."
INJURY UPDATE – Pagano said Reggie Wayne has had his knee surgery and will return to Indianapolis when cleared to travel. "He had his surgery Friday. Dr. (John) Uribe did his surgery. (It was) uneventful. Everything came out great. He's in good spirits, rehabbing three times a day, grinding it out as we would all expect. He's doing well."
Pagano termed Josh Gordy (groin) and Delano Howell (neck) as doubtful for the Houston game, while saying Greg Toler (groin), Cam Johnson (ankle) and Bjoern Werner (back) are day-to-day. Werner was limited in Monday practice. He has been out the past two games.
ROSTER MOVE – The Colts have waived OT-Xavier Nixon. Nixon joined the Colts off the Washington practice squad in September, but was inactive for the four games he was with the club.