INDIANAPOLIS – Have the Colts found the recipe for Thursday night success?
On Thursday night in Houston, the Colts will try and take early control of the AFC South in yet another road matchup coming on a short week.
Here are seven things to watch for in the Colts and Texans matching up in Week Five:
1. Luck Watch
-The Colts are saying the same things they said last week in regards to the status of their franchise quarterback. Luck has been a limited participant at practice this week, although practices on a short week have a totally different look/feel to that of a normal week. Perhaps the biggest indicator on Luck's status for Thursday is the fact that the team is once again carrying three quarterbacks on the active roster by re-signing Josh Johnson on Wednesday morning. The health of Luck and now Matt Hasselbeck (sick) are factors that won't likely be decided upon until Thursday evening.
2. Turn Down For Watt
-How quickly can J.J. Watt turn a game? The Colts found that out last year in Houston when a fumble return for a touchdown from Watt ignited NRG Stadium with "Turn Down For What (Watt)" blasting inside. Lately, the Colts haven't done too bad of a job against Watt, compared to other teams within the division.
3. Short Week Success
-Since 2007, the Colts are a remarkable 9-0 in Thursday night games, with seven of those coming on the road. It hasn't been easy lately, though, with so many contests decided by less than a touchdown. That's usually the case on short weeks. The Colts are banged up, so it will be key to see if the short week forces any players to be inactive, that might otherwise suit up on a normal Sunday. 4. Vontae's Shadow
-Only one wide receiver in the NFL has more than 52 targets through the first quarter of the season than DeAndrew Hopkins. The Texans first-round pick from 2013 leads the league with 61 targets. He will likely draw Vontae Davis, who is questionable after not practicing this week (ankle), in a shadow mode on Thursday night. The shadow role from Davis should benefit from Greg Toler getting back on the field for the first time since Week Two of the preseason.
5. Early Start
-Strong starts have not been a staple of the Colts and Texans after four games in 2015. Last year in Houston, the Colts had a torrid 24-point opening quarter, aided by a Pat McAfee onside kick. The Colts have gone 20 games without scoring a touchdown on their opening offensive possession.
6. Healthy Arian Foster?
-Houston's all-time leading rusher Arian Foster made his 2015 debut last week. Foster was held to just 10 rushing yards on eight carries. In his career with the Texans, Foster has rushed for 960 yards in eight meetings against Indianapolis. That's 6.0 yards per carry, a number the Colts definitely don't want to see on Thursday night.
7. Control Division
-A win on Thursday would put the Colts at 3-2 after five weeks and 3-0 in the division (two of those wins coming on the road). The early control would be there in the AFC South with the Colts not playing another divisional game until the final month of the season. Getting to 3-2 would give the Colts a nice 10-day break, before four of their next five come against undefeated teams---Patriots, Saints (not undefeated), @Panthers, Broncos, @Falcons.