INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts are looking to get back on track in the AFC South.
Fresh off a disappointing home loss to the Tennessee Titans in a game with all sorts of potential playoff implications, the Colts (7-4) on Sunday travel to Houston to take on the surging Texans (4-7) at NRG Stadium.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.
The Colts stumbled last week in their crucial Week 12 matchup against the Titans (8-3) at Lucas Oil Stadium, losing 45-26. The game was a shootout early on, as both teams scored touchdowns on their first two offensive drives, but Tennessee, led by a dominant performance out of its running game, would take over from there, and by halftime had jumped out to a commanding 35-14 lead. While Indy played much better overall in the second half, it was too little, too late, and now, instead of being atop the division standings with five games left to play, the Colts are clinging to the seventh and final spot in the AFC playoff picture heading into Sunday's game.
The Texans, meanwhile, have started clicking after struggling mightily out of the gates. Houston started the season with four straight losses, leading to the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien; but with veteran interim head coach Romeo Crennel taking over, the Texans have put up a 4-3 record since Week 5, with wins in three of their last four games, including two straight. Houston will also be well rested heading into Sunday's game, as their last matchup came on Thanksgiving Day — a satisfying 41-25 road victory over the Detroit Lions. One key development since that game for the Texans, however, is the suspension of both their top wide receiver, Will Fuller V, and cornerback, Bradley Roby, who will have to sit the rest of this season, and into Week 1 of the 2021 season, due violations of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
So what all should we be looking for when this thing kicks off? Here is the official game preview.
- Sunday, Dec. 6, at 1 p.m. ET
- Houston; NRG Stadium
- TV: CBS — Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (color), Sherree Burruss (sideline)
- Colts Official App (*Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.)
- Colts.com mobile website (Safari browser ONLY)
- Yahoo! Sports mobile browser or app
- Click here for MORE WAYS TO WATCH.
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- Local radio: Colts games can be heard in Indianapolis on 93.5, 107.5 and 1070 The Fan and 97.1 HANK FM, plus the desktop version of Colts.com with Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Rick Venturi (color), Larra Overton (sideline) and Bill Brooks (pregame/postgame analyst) on the call.
- National radio: Fans can listen to the live local call on Colts.com (desktop only) and NFL Game Pass. Get your free seven-day trial by clicking here.
*Please check your local TV listing to confirm availability. iOS mobile web and app users should "Allow Location Access" (via Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Safari).
- Colts lead, 28-9; Colts are 13-6 all-time on the road against the Texans.
- Last game — Week 12 of 2019; Texans won, 20-17, at NRG Stadium in Houston.
- Of note: This will be the first time the Colts and Texans have ever played in a Week 13 matchup in Houston in their series history. The first and only other time the two teams have played in Week 13 came in the 2002 season, a 19-3 Indy victory at the RCA Dome. In that game, the Colts jumped out to a 19-0 lead until the 3:45 mark of the fourth quarter, when the Texans sneaked onto the scoreboard with a 34-yard Kris Brown field goal. Peyton Manning completed 15-of-28 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown (a 16-yard pass play to tight end Marcus Pollard midway through the first quarter), while the Indy defense sacked Houston quarterback David Carr six times, including three from defensive lineman Brad Scioli.
- HC Frank Reich
- OC Nick Sirianni
- DC Matt Eberflus
- STC Bubba Ventrone
- HC Romeo Crennel (interim)
- OC Tim Kelly
- DC Anthony Weaver
- STC Tracy Smith
- Lost vs. Tennessee Titans (8-3), 45-26
- Won at Detroit Lions (4-7), 41-25
See the best images from Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts hosted the Tennessee Titans in Week 12.
- OUT — T Anthony Castonzo (knee), LB Bobby Okereke (ankle), P Rigoberto Sanchez (illness), S Khari Willis (back/quad)
- DOUBTFUL — N/A
- QUESTIONABLE — T Chaz Green (back), TE Noah Togiai (knee)
Click here to read more on the injury report for Sunday's game.
- OUT — FB Cullen Gillaspia (back), RB C.J. Prosise (illness)
- DOUBTFUL — N/A
- QUESTIONABLE — DT Ross Blacklock (illness)
STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH
- Reinforcements coming for Indy — The Colts last week were without several starters/key contributors due either to injuries (linebacker Bobby Okereke, center Ryan Kelly) or players being on the Reserve/COVID-19 list (defensive end/tackle Denico Autry, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, running back Jonathan Taylor). And while those absences won't be used as an excuse, they certainly were still a contributing factor to a frustrating 45-26 loss to the Tennessee Titans, who have taken control of the AFC South race. The good news for the Colts is most of those players are expected to be back Sunday against the Texans, including Kelly and Taylor on offense and Autry and Buckner on defense. Now, Okereke (ankle) won't play again on Sunday, and starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo (knee) and strong safety Khari Willis (back/quad) have also been ruled out, but the Colts will certainly take what they can get heading into this matchup, particularly along the defensive front, which struggled to get much of anything going against the run or the pass against the Titans last week.
- Houston replacing top wide receiver, cornerback — The Texans were dealt a harsh blow this week, as they learned their top wide receiver, Will Fuller V, and their top cornerback, Bradley Roby, have both been handed six-game suspensions for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, meaning their 2020 seasons are over. The problem for Houston is the steep drop-off after Fuller V, and particularly after Roby, and that storyline will be on full display Sunday at NRG Stadium. While the Texans can still rely on Brandin Cooks and Keke Coutee (who has given the Colts some fits of late) at receiver, the rest of the position group includes guys like Steven Mitchell Jr. and rookie Isaiah Coulter, both of whom have a combined zero pass targets this season. Not helping matters is the fact the Texans recently released veteran wide receiver Kenny Stills, while veteran Randall Cobb was also recently placed on injured reserve. At cornerback, Roby's absence could really be felt. What's left? Vernon Hargreaves III, Phillip Gaines, John Reid, Keion Crossen, Cornell Armstrong and maybe Lonnie Johnson Jr., who has been moved to safety — that group has really struggled at multiple junctures throughout the season. The Colts must take advantage of these key Texans losses on both sides of the ball.
- Rigo is top of mind — It goes without saying: the Colts will be playing with a heavy heart Sunday, their first game without punter Rigoberto Sanchez, who on Monday publicly revealed that he has been diagnosed with cancer. We learned Monday that Sanchez was actually diagnosed late last week but still decided to play in last Sunday's Week 12 matchup against the Titans, in which he averaged more than 50 yards on five punts, was the holder for two successful extra-point attempts and also attempted an onside kick. Sanchez on Tuesday had successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, and by all accounts his prognosis moving forward is strong. While there's no exact timetable for Sanchez's potential return to the field, the team has signed veteran punter Ryan Allen to fill the void moving forward; the lefty Allen has played in 105 career games in his time with the Tennessee Titans (2020), Atlanta Falcons (2019) and New England Patriots (2013-18) and has totaled 445 punts for 20,102 yards (45.2 avg./40.0 net avg.) with 167 pinned inside the 20-yard line, and, according to Reich, is a solid holder for the kicking game, too.
- Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Texans CB Vernon Hargreaves III: I think by now we are all aware of Hilton's dominance against the Texans, particularly in games played at NRG Stadium. But, hey, why not bring it back up? Hilton has played the Texans 17 times in his career and has 90 catches for 1,622 yards and 10 touchdowns in those matchups. He has seven 100-yard receiving games against the Texans, including 223 at Houston in 2014, the second highest total of his career. At NRG Stadium, Hilton is averaging just more than five receptions for 115 yards per game. Fresh off his best performance of the year last week against the Titans, in which he had four receptions for 81 yards and his first touchdown of the season, one has to imagine Hilton will be a major part of the gameplan once again on Sunday against the Texans, who are without their top cornerback, Bradley Roby, who this week was suspended six games. Hilton could find himself frequently matched up against Hargreaves III, whose 37.6 coverage grade this season from Pro Football Focus is the third worst among all qualifying cornerbacks in the NFL.
- Colts LT LeRaven Clark vs. Texans DE J.J. Watt: With starter Anthony Castonzo out on Sunday with a sprained MCL, the team could turn once again to the fifth-year veteran Clark to hold down the fort at left tackle moving forward, starting on Sunday against the Texans. And, much like we saw back in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns, who weren't shy about lining their top pass rusher, Myles Garrett, up against Clark, who was starting for an injured Castonzo, the Texans could choose to do the same with Watt, who continues to tear it up now in his 10th NFL season. Watt, as always, has lined up really anywhere along the defensive line throughout the season, but, like Garrett, most of his snaps have come at left defensive end, or over the right tackle. But, like the Browns did with Garrett, the Texans could choose to try to flip Watt to the other side for a majority of the game. The Colts can certainly give Clark some help throughout the contest, but that also somewhat limits what they can do offensively; we'll see how Indy tries to strike that balance against Watt & Co. on Sunday.
- Colts CB Kenny Moore II vs. Texans WR Keke Coutee: The Texans will be without their undisputed top receiver on Sunday in Will Fuller V, who, like Roby, was suspended this week for the remainder of the season. So while Brandin Cooks takes over as Houston's No. 1 wideout, one can imagine the Texans are going to try to figure out more ways to get the ball in the hands of Coutee, their ultra-quick slot receiver. Coutee got lost in the shuffle earlier this season and was commonly a healthy scratch, but he's played in the Texans' last two games, and in three games overall, and has six receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown altogether. While that doesn't seem all too daunting, Coutee has done well in the recent past against the Colts, including a 15-target, 11-reception, 109-yard performance back in Week 4 of the 2018 season. There's no doubt that the Texans will be looking No. 16's way much more moving forward, starting on Sunday against Moore II (one of the better nickel corners in the league) and the Colts.
- Colts LB Darius Leonard vs. Texans QB Deshaun Watson: The All-Pro Leonard is the marquee matchup against Watson, but, really, it's going to take the entire Colts defense to limit the fourth-year Clemson product, who, if not for the Texans' early-season woes, would likely be in the MVP conversation at this point of the year. Watson so far has completed 250-of-363 passes (68.9 percent) for 3,201 yards with 24 touchdowns to just five interceptions for a career-best QB rating of 112.5; his 8.8 yards-per-attempt figure leads the league. And as we all know, Watson is also always a threat to run the ball, as he has 62 rushing attempts for 293 yards and two scores on the ground. Leonard had a monster performance back in Week 9 against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, finishing with 15 tackles (one for a loss) and a fumble recovery, and he'll need to lead the charge once again on Sunday against a similarly-talented/elusive/athletic/quick quarterback in Watson.
- Head referee: Scott Novak (seven years). Click here to see all referee assignments for Week 13.
- Favorite: Colts (-3)
- Over/Under: 50.5
REGULAR SEASON LEADERS
- Passing — QB Philip Rivers (2,978 yards)
- Rushing — RB Jonathan Taylor (518 yards)
- Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (408 yards)
- Touchdowns — RB Nyheim Hines (6)
- Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (80)
- Sacks — Denico Autry (6.0)
- Interceptions — S Julian Blackmon, CB T.J. Carrie, CB Kenny Moore II, CB Xavier Rhodes (2 each)
- Passing — QB Deshaun Watson (3,201 yards)
- Rushing — RB David Johnson (408 yards)
- Receiving — WR Will Fuller V (879 yards)
- Touchdowns — WR Will Fuller V (8)
- Tackles — LB Zach Cunningham (110)
- Sacks — LB Whitney Mercilus, DE J.J. Watt (4.0 each)
- Interceptions — CB Vernon Hargreaves III, CB Bradley Roby, DE J.J. Watt (1 each)
COMPARING 2020 STATS
- Total offense — 12th (370.0 YPG)
- Scoring — 9th (27.5 PPG)
- Passing offense — 10th (265.6 YPG)
- Sack percentage allowed — 2nd (3.01)
- Rushing offense — Tied-21st (104.4 YPG)
- Third down offense — 28th (37.59 percent)
- Red zone offense — 18th (59.52 percent)
- Total defense — 5th (311.8 YPG)
- Scoring defense — Tied-9th (23.0 PPG)
- Passing defense — 6th (209.9 YPG)
- Sacks — 17th (23)
- Rushing defense — 7th (101.9 YPG)
- Third down defense — 17th (40.88 percent)
- Red zone defense — 26th (67.65 percent)
- Time of possession — 12th (30:48)
- Turnover differential — Tied-6th (+5)
- Total offense — 16th (361.2 YPG)
- Scoring — 17th (24.4 PPG)
- Passing offense — 3rd (277.3 YPG)
- Sack percentage allowed — 24th (7.69)
- Rushing offense — 31st (83.9 YPG)
- Third down offense — 16th (41.54 percent)
- Red zone offense — 19th (59.38 percent)
- Total defense — 30th (409.5 YPG)
- Scoring defense — 23rd (27.0 PPG)
- Passing defense — 23rd (254.8 YPG)
- Sacks — Tied-14th (25)
- Rushing defense — 31st (154.7 YPG)
- Third down defense — 28th (48.30 percent)
- Red zone defense — Tied-14th (61.36 percent)
- Time of possession — 31st (26:48)
- Turnover differential — Tied-21st (-2)
NOTES AND QUOTES
• Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship:
— With four points, he will become the fourth rookie in franchise history to eclipse 100 points in a single season.
— With six points, he will tie Edgerrin James (102) for the third-most points by a rookie in franchise history.
— With seven points, he will pass Edgerrin James (102) for the third-most points by a rookie in franchise history.
— With eight points, he will tie Mike Vanderjagt (104) for the second-most points by a rookie in franchise history.
— With nine points, he will pass Mike Vanderjagt (104) for the second-most points by a rookie in franchise history.
• Cornerback T.J. Carrie:
— With one pass defensed, he will reach 50 career passes defensed.
— With one defensive or special teams return for a touchdown, he will tie Ray Buchanan and Terrence Wilkins (three) for the most such touchdowns in single-season franchise history.
• Cornerback T.J. Carrie, cornerback Kenny Moore II, cornerback Xavier Rhodes:
— With one interception returned for a touchdown, he will tie numerous players for the second-most interceptions returned for a touchdown (two) in single-season franchise history.
• Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton:
— With one touchdown, he will tie Joseph Addai (48) for the 10th-most total touchdowns in team history.
— With one receiving touchdown, he will pass Dallas Clark (46) for the sixth-most receiving touchdowns in team history.
— With one game with 10+ receptions, he will pass Don McCauley, Lydell Mitchell, Joe Washington, Anthony Johnson and Dallas Clark, all with three, for the third-most games with 10+ receptions in team history.
• Defensive end Justin Houston:
— With one safety, he will tie Ted Hendricks, Doug English and Jared Allen (four) for the most safeties in NFL history.
• Linebacker Darius Leonard:
— With two tackles, he will tie Jerrell Freeman (366) for the second-most tackles in a player's first three seasons in Colts history.
— With three tackles, he will pass Jerrell Freeman (366) for the second-most tackles in a player's first three seasons in Colts history.
• Cornerback Xavier Rhodes:
— With five tackles, he will reach 400 career tackles.
• Quarterback Philip Rivers:
— With one game with three-or-more touchdown passes, he will tie Dan Marino (62) for the sixth-most games of three-or-more touchdown passes in NFL history.
— With one game with 400+ passing yards, he will tie Ben Roethlisberger (12) for the fourth-most games with 400+ passing yards in NFL history.
— With one game with 100.0+ passer rating, he will pass Brett Favre (108) for the fourth-most such games in NFL history.
— With 18 passes attempted, he will reach 8,000 career passes attempted. He would become just the seventh player in NFL history to reach that plateau, joining Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Eli Manning.
— With 22 passing yards, he will reach 3,000 passing yards for the season and become the fifth player in NFL history to reach 3,000 passing yards in 15 seasons.
"I think it would mean a lot. I mean Rigo (Rigoberto Sanchez) is a consummate team player now. You talk to this guy for a minute and you know that he loves the team, and he is all about the team. We all know that. This team knows that. This team loves Rigo, respects Rigo. He is a leader on this team by the way he plays and by his attitude. This is big – especially guys on the punt team want to know that, 'Hey, we've got your back Rigo.' The way that you have his back is you just do your job and you go out there and use good fundamentals and good technique. We have a good week of practice and that's really what we focus on." — Colts head coach Frank Reich on what it would mean to get a win Sunday for punter Rigoberto Sanchez, who publicly revealed on Monday his cancer diagnosis and had surgery to remove the tumor on Tuesday.
"Yeah, it's the hardest position on the field to play other than quarterback. It's obviously out there in the open like a quarterback is. For every position like that – corner or safety – you have to do a good job of really relying on your technique that you've learned and it has to be like secondary nature for you to be able to execute that in the game. A lot of times you'll see progress during the course of practice – OTAs, mini-camp and training camp, all that and even during the course of the year and that might not show up until later." — Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, on how frustrating it can be for a young player, like cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, to have some up-and-down performances.
"We have to account for it – any good defensive end we always have to account for whether Anthony (Castonzo) is there or whether Anthony is not there. What Anthony does give you, he is just a dominant left tackle that is able to win his one-on-one matchups. We just have to be aware that there might need to be a little bit more help for whoever is in there because Anthony is elite so we might not look exactly the same, but accounting for all things – not only with who is replacing Anthony but also who we are playing against." — Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni on what changes schematically when left tackle Anthony Castonzo isn't in the lineup.
"He's done a great job this year. I would say especially with the kickoffs, being able to generate good hang times and placement and giving our guys good balls to cover. So that's been a big positive. We've done a good job on that unit to this point. That's been a really good thing for our team, to be able to create field position for our defense. Then in turn, it helps our offense as well. As far as his punt placement, he's done a really good job this season in the plus-50 area of being able to pin the ball inside the five, inside the ten consistently. We've done a good job with that and our players have made some good plays as well. In the field, same thing – this guy has been able to control field position the last three years for us. We've done a good job on that unit. Like I said, you're not going to replace a guy like Rigo (Rigoberto Sanchez) in that regard, but hopefully we have the personnel around the new guy to be able to help him as much as we can." — Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone on the areas in which punter Rigoberto Sanchez has excelled, and what they'll be missing as Sanchez works his way back after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor this week.
"Very, very – like when I got the call I didn't know what to say. I had all kinds of feelings. My legs were shaking. I felt like I was going to give out, man." — Colts defensive tackle Grover Stewart on his immediate reaction upon hearing he was being offered a multi-year contract extension.
"I know this is a boring answer, but it really comes down to the details. It comes down to the things that you know win football games from not turning the football over, the technique and fundamentals. All those things we talk about all the way back to training camp, they tend to rear their head again in a huge way here down the stretch for what ended up costing you or helping you find a way to win. I think the biggest thing for us is keeping that one day at a time, one play at a time mentality. How can we have the best Wednesday practice of the year? I know that's a boring answer, but I think that is the recipe to give us the best chance to win on Sunday." — Colts quarterback Philip Rivers on what it takes to ensure your team is playing its best football in December to make a playoff push.
CATCH BEFORE THE GAME
- Four Colts Ruled Out Sunday Against The Texans; Two Questionable
- Colts Nominate Justin Houston For 2020 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award
- Colts Thursday Notebook: Denico Autry Returns From Reserve/COVID-19 List; Quenton Nelson On Colts' Run Game Issues
- Colts To Host Up To 12,500 Fans For Dec. 20 Home Game Vs. Texans
- Colts, Irsay To Highlight Nonprofits, Charities In 'My Cause My Cleats' Campaign
- Colts Wednesday Notebook: Jonathan Taylor Back From Reserve/COVID-19 List; Ryan Kelly Returns To Practice
- How to Watch Colts @ Texans
- Colts Release Week 13 Unofficial Depth Chart For Texans Matchup
- Colts Injury/COVID-19 Updates: Anthony Castonzo, Ryan Kelly, DeForest Buckner & More
- Frank Reich On Rigoberto Sanchez: 'We Have No Doubt That He Will Overcome This'
- Punter Rigoberto Sanchez Shares Cancer Diagnosis
- Five Things Learned: Colts-Titans (2020, Week 12)