INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts (6-6) continue their road trip this weekend in a highly critical game against an AFC South divisional foe in the Houston Texans (9-3).
After losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, the Colts need to bounce back on Sunday — while also avenging a Week 4 home loss to the Texans — to stay in the AFC playoff race.
The Texans won their ninth consecutive game last week when they defeated the Cleveland Browns, 29-13. As a result, Houston strengthened its grasp on the AFC South lead and the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoff race.
It was never much of a contest last week, as Houston got off to the races with a 23-0 start. Cleveland didn’t score until almost halfway into the third quarter when rookie running back Nick Chubb punched it in from two yards out.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and the passing game was efficient and effective when he was kept upright (he was sacked four times) as he completed 71 percent of his passes and had 254 total yards of offense. He also tossed one 11-yard touchdown to rookie tight end Jordan Thomas.
Running back Lamar Miller — who has had success against the Colts before — is on a hot streak as of late. He is averaging 105.9 offensive yards per game and has scored three times in the last seven games, including a 97-yard touchdown run two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans. Against the Browns, he had 115 yards on 20 touches.
The Texans totaled 384 yards of offense and were 8-of-16 on third down.
Houston’s defense made Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield look like an actual rookie for much of the game before he heated up a bit in the second half. He had 351 yards on 24-of-30 passing with a touchdown in the final two quarters, totaling 397 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions on the day.
Receivers Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins combined for 13 receptions, 249 yards and one touchdown. The Texans kept Chubb in check to the tune of just 31 yards, although he did have 41 yards receiving.
The Browns netted 428 yards of offense and were 2-of-10 combined on third and fourth down.
The Colts and Texans’ Week 4 matchup was quite noteworthy. The Texans held an 18-point lead in the second half before the Colts stormed back to force overtime behind Andrew Luck’s career-high 464 yards and four touchdowns.
Late in overtime after trading field goals, the Colts had a failed 4th-and-4 attempt from their own 43-yard line. Houston would then take possession and win on a 37-yard field goal.
Luck was lights out in the first matchup, and it was one of his first performances of the season that let the world know he was truly back from his 2017 labrum surgery. Since the last game, the Colts have left tackle Anthony Castonzo back from injury. So, that should help neutralize edge defender Jadeveon Clowney, at least a little bit.
The Colts will be without tight end Jack Doyle again after he sustained a season-ending kidney injury two weeks ago. He was also out in Week 4 with a hip injury. It would be ideal for the Colts to get tight end Mo Alie-Cox — who can pick up some of the tight end blocking slack — back from his calf injury this week, but he has been out of practice for a couple weeks now.
The Colts got next to nothing out of their run game in Week 4 — running backs Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines and Jeremy McNichols combining for 30 yards on 14 carries — but they have Marlon Mack this time around, who they did not have before as he nursed a hamstring injury.
Houston’s front seven, led by Clowney and J.J. Watt, really harassed Luck, totaling four sacks, six tackles for loss and seven hits. Clowney even had a touchdown on a fumble recovery.
The game was Watson’s first against the Colts, and he looked like the player we saw as a dominant rookie in 2017. He totaled 416 yards of offense and two touchdowns. Hopkins, Will Fuller and Keke Coutee combined for 25 receptions for 327 yards and two touchdowns.
With the exception of Week 13, Luck has been on a tear this season, passing for at least three touchdowns in the eight consecutive games prior. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton usually performs at a high level against the Texans, especially down in Houston, as he averages 5.3 catches for 122.3 yards (23.1 avg) and 1.2 touchdowns in six career games in Houston.
Many say the Colts should have won the Week 4 matchup, so this is not only their chance to atone for that, but to also regain the momentum on their season and get it back on the right track.
2018 KEY STATS
- 3rd in rushing (140.8 YPG) 2nd in rushing attempts per game (31.5)
- Tied for 6th in passing yards per attempt (8.3)
- 7th in passer rating (100.8)
- 8th in turnover differential (+8)
- 8th in time of possession (31:11)
- 26th in red zone offense at home (50.0%)
- Tied for 29th in sacks allowed (41)
- 3rd in points allowed (19.6 PPG)
- Tied for 4th in takeaways (22)
- 5th in run defense (91.3 YPG), tied for 2nd in yards per carry allowed (3.7 avg) and tied for 2nd in run plays of 20-plus yards allowed (3)
- 10th in total defense (341.5 YPG)
- 10th in sacks (34)
- 27th in red zone defense (71.0%) (18th at home [57.1%])
- 29th in passing plays of 40-plus yards allowed (10)