INDIANAPOLIS —The last time the Indianapolis Colts took the field against the Houston Texans, their division rivals were reeling from the loss of star rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice just a few days before Indy came to town.
And on Sunday, the Texans could, once again, be without their unquestioned top weapon on offense for their second matchup against the Colts.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who leads the National Football League with 13 touchdown receptions, is "expected to miss" Sunday's 2017 season finale against Indianapolis as he deals with a calf injury, The Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson reports.
If that does end up being the case, it'll be the first missed game of Hopkins' career after having played in 79 consecutive contests since being selected 27th overall by the Texans in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said Thursday, meanwhile, that a "decision on whether or not DeAndre Hopkins plays will be made before game time," team reporter Deepi Sidhu reported.
Prior to this season, Hopkins was signed to a reported five-year, $81 million contract extension with the Texans, and his play on the field certainly has lived up to such a lucrative deal. In 15 games, he has caught 96 passes for 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns. He ranks fifth in the league in receptions, second in yards and first in touchdowns.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Hopkins' 2017 season is the fact that he's continued to excel despite experiencing a quarterback carousel of sorts throughout the year. The Texans (4-11) entered the 2017 season with Tom Savage as their starting quarterback, quickly made the move to Watson, and have utilized a mixture of Savage (who has since been placed on IR), T.J. Yates and Taylor Heinicke since Week 9.
In other words, no matter who is throwing the ball Hopkins' way, the Clemson product is going to find a way to catch it.
"He's got a skillset that allows him to do that, meaning like, big guy, good route runner, big hands, great catch radius, ability to get his feet down inbounds," Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said, via Sidhu. "The ball doesn't have to be pinpoint accuracy every time. He actually likes the ball away from his body. Yeah, he's probably the perfect receiver to have to work with a lot of different quarterbacks."
The loss of Hopkins could be huge on Sunday for a Texans team that hasn't had much production at all from its other receivers this season. Houston's second-leading receiver in 2017 is a running back (Lamar Miller; 36 receptions for 327 yards and three touchdowns), while the team's remaining five wide receivers to have logged at least one reception this season have combined to catch 75 passes for 943 yards and 10 touchdowns, all numbers surpassed by Hopkins alone.
If Hopkins is indeed out on Sunday, expect Will Fuller V to step in as the Texans' No. 1 wide receiver. Fuller V, who is in his second year out of Notre Dame, missed the first three games of the season, but began his year in Week 4 with seven touchdown receptions in his first four games; he's had a combined 13 receptions for 127 yards and zero touchdowns in his five games since.