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Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: D-line vs. Texans' O-line, rushing success at Lucas Oil Stadium, zooming out on 2023 playoff push

The Colts mailbag is back for Week 18 with questions on how the Colts will try to get after C.J. Stroud, why the team's run the ball better at home and if the 2023 season will be viewed as a success no matter the outcome on Saturday night. 


The Colts Mailbag is back! readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for the next Colts Mailbag by clicking here. I'll also be checking the comments on our Official Colts Podcast YouTube page and will answer some listener questions in here, too.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Gus Fratrick, Albuquerque, N.M.: Colts fan since 1971. I know pressure is always important to get a QB off his spot. I'd like to know how you think the Colts stack up against Texans O-line? Thanks from the biggest Colts fan in the south west.

JJ Stankevitz: The Texans' offensive line was missing several starters, including stalwart left tackle Laremy Tunsil, back in Week 2. The only offensive linemen to start that September game against the Colts who looks to be in line to start Saturday is right guard Shaq Mason.

The Colts sacked Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud six times in that 31-20 win. As Stroud's rookie season went on, he got better at protecting himself – and his offensive line got healthier – as 11 of the 36 sacks he took this year came in Weeks 1 and 2.

Still, the Colts will need to bring Stroud to the ground a few times to boost their chances of winning on Saturday. Guys like Samson Ebukam (9.5 sacks), Dayo Odeyingbo (8.5 sacks), Kwity Paye (8.0 sacks), DeForest Buckner (7.0 sacks) and Tyquan Lewis (4.0 sacks) will be counted on to add to the Colts' Indianapolis-era record of 49 sacks on Saturday night.

Brandon Smith, Jenison, Mich.: Why have the Colts had so much more success on the ground at home versus away? Headed in to week 17, they average only 81.3 rush yards outside of Lucas Oil (3rd worst!), but an astounding 149.7 at home (6th best). Will this be an advantage heading into Week 18? Or is it simply coincidence?

JJ Stankevitz: Great question here. The Colts only went under 130 rushing yards at Lucas Oil Stadium once – in Week 1, without Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss – and in their last three home games (all wins) rushed for 155, 170 and 134 yards.

On a per-play basis, the Colts have averaged over four yards per carry in every home game after Week 1, including going over 4.5 yards per carry in five of their last six home games.

Meanwhile on the road, the Colts have hit at least 4.0 yards per rush twice (Week 2, 5.5; Week 3, 4.0).

This is probably more a coincidence or small sample size thing than anything else – the Colts have faced five of the NFL's top 10 rushing defenses (New England, Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Atlanta) away from Lucas Oil Stadium and only had success against the Texans. Although then again, the Colts ran all over the Titans and No. 5 rushing defense Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, while struggling to run the ball against the No. 31 Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium.

Maybe, for whatever reason, there's something to the Colts running the ball at home. Saturday night will be a good test for this theory against a Texans rush defense that's held its last four opponents under

Dan Sidlik, Greer, S.C.: If the Colts don't make the playoffs, would you consider the season to be a success?

JJ Stankevitz: In the short term, I don't think any coach or player would view 2023 as a success without a trip to the playoffs – these opportunities are not guaranteed, and missing out on the postseason with a win-and-in Week 18 game would certainly sting. 

Zooming out, though, that the Colts are even in this position after a 4-12-1 2022 season is an accomplishment. The guys the Colts counted on to be their best players are playing like their best players, and under the watch of first-year head coach Shane Steichen, this team has weathered several challenges – injuries, suspensions, etc. – to at worst finish over .500. In a season where a lot could've gone wrong, plenty has gone right. It's one of the reasons why Pro Football Focus' Brad Spielberger is so bullish on the 2024 Colts no matter what happens down the stretch.

Jordan Kennerknecht, Roanoke, Va.: When it comes to the WRs, do you think that Alec Pierce, Josh Downs and D.J. Montgomery are going to be involved with deep passes more often on Saturday night?

JJ Stankevitz: Notably, the Texans enter Week 18 having seen the NFL's third-most passing plays (79) where an opposing quarterback targeted a receiver 20 or more yards downfield, per Pro Football Focus. Opposing quarterbacks completed 34 of those passes (most in the NFL) for 1,203 yards (second-most) with eight touchdowns (sixth most).

But: The Texans have seven interceptions on those plays, most in the NFL. It's why the Texans, despite allowing so many yards on those deep balls, are 16th with a passer rating of 86.9 allowed on those throws.

The Colts only attempted two deep balls in their Week 2 win over the Texans – Gardner Minshew II connected with rookie tight end Will Mallory for a 46-yard gain in the second quarter, then he threw incomplete toward Michael Pittman Jr. down the far sideline in the third quarter.

A successful deep shot requires plenty to go right: It has to be the right call against the right coverage at the right time in the game (the Colts maybe didn't throw as many in Week 2 since they were leading all game). And then, the protection has to be good, the throw has to be accurate and the receiver has to run a good route and make the catch. If anything goes wrong, the play could be blown up – or turned into a takeaway for the defense.

Barry Bell, Noblesville, Ind.: Is there anything in the rule books to award the game win to one team or the other if the game ends in a tie? I think it is winner advances. But what if there is something else that would break the tie. Like team that scored the most points in the division. It would play into game strategy.

JJ Stankevitz: So in the event of a tie, the Colts and Texans would each have a 9-7-1 record, but the Colts would be seeded higher based on their Week 2 win in Houston. The Colts would only make the playoffs with a tie if the Pittsburgh Steelers lose or tie to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday (earning them the AFC No. 7 seed), or the Jacksonville Jaguars lose to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday (earning them the AFC South title and No. 4 seed).

This is, of course, extremely unlikely to happen – but hey, the Colts and Texans tied to open the 2022 season, so anything is possible.

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