A Capsule Look at this Week's Colts Opponent, the Houston Texans
Synopsis: The Colts are very familiar with their opponent Sunday.
And as such, they know the Houston Texans – despite their history against the Colts and despite their record – are a very dangerous opponent.
The Texans are talented. They are well-coached.
And historically, they play the Colts very, very close, something that was particularly true earlier this season.
So, even though the Colts beat the Texans in Week 5 of the season, and even though they have lost just once in seven seasons to the 2002 expansion franchise, Colts President Bill Polian said there's little chance of Indianapolis overlooking the fourth-place team in the AFC South.
"This is a team that has a world of talent," Polian said this week as the Colts (4-4) prepared to play the Texans (4-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m. "They have been drafting basically in the Top 10 for the entire seven years of their existence and they have the talent to show for it."
The Texans, one season after finishing with their first .500 record in franchise history, this season have faced one of the NFL's most difficult sets of circumstances. They started the season with three consecutive road games because of Hurricane Ike, and after losses in each of those games, they returned home to Reliant Stadium to play the Colts on October 5.
The Texans that day took a 27-10 lead with five minutes remaining, but lost, 31-27, as the Colts became the first team in NFL history to win a game in regulation in which they trailed by 17 or more points with less than five minutes remaining.
Houston then won three consecutive games before losing its last two, but over the last two months, they have developed into one of the NFL's top, young offensive teams.
With wide receiver Andre Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, continuing to emerge as one of the league's top players at his position, the Texans scored 27 or more points in five consecutive games. Johnson leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards with 67 and 900, and even with quarterback Matt Schaub out with an injury this past week, he caught nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Baltimore this past Sunday.
Schaub sustained a knee injury in a 28-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on November 2, and is expected to miss at least another three games.
"They, too, have suffered from bad breaks at the quarterback position," Polian said. "(Matt) Schaub has been in and out of the lineup. (Sage) Rosenfels has been in and out of the lineup. They have not been able to develop any real consistency there and that has hurt them some."
Rosenfels, starting against the Baltimore Ravens this past week, threw four interceptions – two of which led to touchdowns – and the Ravens pulled away from a tight game in the fourth quarter.
The Texans also feature what Polian called one of the top pass-rushing defensive lines in the NFL, a line that includes defensive end Mario Williams and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye.
"They're very capable of winning any game they play," Polian said. "They were in the game (Sunday). They got into trouble with turnovers and some big plays that Baltimore was able to come up with that made that game look as though it was a blowout when in reality it was really close for about three quarters.
"They're more than capable. They'll be coming in here figuring this is a way to make a statement in the AFC South and they would be right to think that."
2008 Record: 3-6, 4th in AFC South.
Head Coach: Gary Kubiak, third season as Texans and NFL head coach (17-24).
Last game: After playing the Baltimore Ravens tough for three quarters, Houston entered the fourth quarter trailing, 19-13, before the Ravens pulled away for a 41-13 victory at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels, playing in place of injured starting quarterback Matt Schaub, threw two of his four interceptions on back-to-back fourth-quarter drives. Both interceptions led directly to touchdowns. The Ravens held the Texans to 75 yards rushing and Houston was penalized 10 times for 76 yards.
2008 NFL Rankings: Offense – Overall, 5th (371.7 yards per game); Rushing, 17th (107.3 ypg); Passing, 4th (264.3 ypg); Defense – Overall, 19th (329.3 yards per game); Rushing, 23rd (130.7 ypg); Passing, 14th (198.7 ypg).
2008 Leading Passer(s): Matt Schaub (154-227 completions, 1,762 yards, 67.8 pct., 10 TD, 8 INT, 91.0 rating); Sage Rosenfels (65-100 completions, 764 yards, 65.0 pct., 4 TD, 6 INT, 76.4 passer rating).
2008 Leading Rusher(s): Steve Slaton (124 carries, 545 yards, 5 TD); Ahman Green (52 carries, 238 yards, 1 TD).
2008 Leading Receiver(s): Andre Johnson (67 receptions, 900 yards, 3 TD); Owen Daniels (44 receptions, 541 yards, 2 TD); Kevin Walter (37 receptions, 495 yards, 6 TD); Steve Slaton (32 receptions, 198 yards, 1 TD).
2008 Leading Sacker: Mario Williams (8).
2008 Turnover Breakdown: Minus-12 (9 forced, 21 committed).
First-Round Draft Selection: Duane Brown, offensive tackle. With the No. 26 overall selection in the NFL Draft, the Texans selected Brown an offensive tackle from Virginia Tech.
Brown, a two-time second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, moved quickly into the starting lineup for the Texans at left tackle, where he has started all nine games this season. He began his career as a tight end, moving to tackle as a junior.
Key free agents acquired: Kevin Bentley (Seattle), CB; Chris Brown (Tennessee), RB; Nick Ferguson (Denver), S; Jaques Reeves (Dallas), CB; Chaun Thompson (Cleveland), LB.
Key free agents lost: Charlie Anderson (Miami), LB; Michael Boulware (Minnesota), S; Danny Clark (New York Giants), LB; Von Hutchins (Atlanta), CB.
2008 Review: The Texans have had a season of ups and downs, with the last two weeks a down cycle.
The Texans opened the season with three consecutive road games, losing the first two by wide margins before an overtime loss in Jacksonville in Week 3. They then returned home to play the Colts in the first of four consecutive home games.
They lost 31-27 to Indianapolis, but a three-game winning streak over Miami, Detroit and Cincinnati pulled the Texans back into the back end of the playoff chase. They then traveled to Minnesota, where they lost, 28-21, for their fourth loss in as many road games, before playing the Ravens tough for three quarters of a 41-13 loss this past Sunday.
Last time in Playoffs: Never.
Last time in Super Bowl: Never.
Super Bowl Championships: None.
2007 Pro Bowl Selections: DeMeco Ryans, LB.
Quotable I: "I've got to figure out something to do different. I have to figure out a way to get us to play four quarters of clean football. We have some tough road games coming up, and that spurt (in the fourth quarter against Baltimore) was ugly. So I've got to figure out something."
--- Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak
Quotable II: "I know we're disappointed. A lot of disappointment right now. We work hard all week – contrary to belief or what people think, that we just line up on Sundays. We bust our tails all week, and to come out and for it not to come out the way you expect it to, it's kind of frustrating and disappointing."
--- Texans Linebacker Kevin Bentley