For First Time Since 2010, Colts Will Face Houston Without J.J. Watt Playing

Intro: A Colts/Texans matchup without J.J. Watt? For the first time in six years, Watt won’t be on the field against Indianapolis. How has Houston played without Watt this season?

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INDIANAPOLIS – When Andrew Luck first took a gander at film of the Texans this week he noticed something missing.

Where was he?

He is J.J. Watt, the NFL's most disruptive defender who leads the league in sacks, quarterback hits and tackles for loss since being drafted in 2011.

For the first time since 2010, the Colts and Texans will meet and Watt will be on the sideline.

"It's a little (weird) for the first couple of minutes and then you realize okay it's a little bit different because he's not there and he is such a premier player," Luck says of studying Texans' film without Watt wreaking havoc.

Watt went on injured reserve after Week Three due to a back injury.

Even though the Texans defense hasn't been as difficult to penetrate without Watt, the unit is still very strong.

The Texans are currently fifth in total defense, first in pass defense and have the eighth-best sack rate in the NFL this season.

Why?

They are getting tremendous pressure off the edges to go along with improved secondary play.

Edge rusher Whitney Mercilus has 15.5 sacks since Week Six of last season, the most in the NFL over that time period.

Former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney leads the NFL with eight tackles for loss this season.

"(Watt) is a great, great player, but they have a lot of great players," Chuck Pagano said earlier this week when asked about the Houston defense minus No. 99.

"They are suffocating and very, very stingy in a lot of areas. They make it very, very difficult to move the football, chains and to matriculate the ball down the field. They miss him, anybody would miss J.J. Watt, but when one guy goes down it's next man up. All those guys have raised the bar and raised their level of play."

Even though Houston's defense is still performing at a high level, the unit has not had the same elite sack production without Watt.

In three games with Watt on the field this season, Houston piled up 10 sacks.

In the two games without Watt, they produced just 3 sacks.

Perhaps one of the greatest impacts of preparing for Houston sans Watt is how the Colts can now utilize their offensive personnel.

Normally, an extra back and/or tight end staying in to block were a must when accounting for Watt.

Now, the Colts don't necessarily have to keep those skill guys in for added protection and can send them out on passing routes, which comes in handy again this week with Donte Moncrief still out.

It's all part of a unique prep week for the Colts compared to a normal look at the Texans.

But the Colts know, even with Watt sidelined, there is still plenty of high-draft pick talent in Houston's front seven.

"When you don't see (Watt) out there, I guess it does change the look aesthetically," left guard Jack Mewhort says, "but I've said it over and over there's 10 other good players out there and there will be 11 on Sunday.

"They've always been known for their linebacker core and their defensive front."

Below is a closer look at what the Texans look like on film without J.J. Watt:

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