INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts' first primetime game of 2016 comes on Sunday.
In taking on the Texans on Sunday Night Football, the Colts will play the first of three night games on their 2016 slate.
Sunday's broadcast crew on NBC will be play-by-play man Al Michaels, color guy Cris Collinsworth and sideline reporter Michele Tafoya for the 8:30 p.m. kickoff.
Earlier this week, Colts.com caught up with Collinsworth to get his thoughts on this critical Week Six matchup.
How does Collinsworth view the Colts and Texans? On his early impressions of the Colts:
"Like a lot of teams in the NFL, they are young in certain places. They are trying to figure out how they are going to play together in certain circumstances. If you look at the right side of that offensive line with (Ryan Kelly, Denzelle Good and Joe Haeg), some of those guys over there are still figuring it out. There's a lot more cohesiveness between (Anthony) Castonzo and (Jack) Mewhort on the other side. I think they are still trying to figure out exactly what they are going to be in the passing game---where T.Y. Hilton fits into that mix, where Phillip Dorsett fits into that mix. Ultimately, where some of these young guys can help out. Quan Bray does some good things. Chester Rogers does some good things. But what do they do best? Those are the kinds of things on offense that they are going to have to get figured out.
"Then on the defense. This is going to be a really interesting game from the standpoint of who knows who's going to play in that secondary. Is (Patrick) Robinson going to be ready? Is (Darius) Butler going to be ready? What does that mean? Who plays in nickel? What does that do to Vontae Davis? There's a lot of different moving parts in there. And you've got to say there's some mistakes. There's a lot of missed tackles on the defensive side of the ball. There's some good. There's some bad. How are they going to end up protecting Andrew Luck? How much of a factor will Andrew Luck be in protecting himself? All those things factor into the Indianapolis Colts right now."
On Andrew Luck's play through five weeks:
"First off, I don't think anyone is going to question Andrew Luck's talent. Right? We get that. Anybody that thinks Andrew Luck doesn't have the ability mentally, physically, arm strength, run ability, leadership, all that stuff, it's all there. But really, he's a very different quarterback than I think Indianapolis fans are used to seeing. He's a quarterback that is going to try and make a play at all costs. He very rarely just takes a ball and throws it away, or wears out defenses with eight straight check downs. This is a big-play offense. 'We want to hit the home runs. We want to run, run, run, then play action and make you look bad in the intermediate areas.' There's a lot of things that this offense can do. There's a lot of things that this offense can do better, quite frankly. I don't think you have to look very far to see the sack numbers. That is definitely a factor. I was sort of proud of Andrew for stepping up and saying to some extent that some of that was on him, because it was. Some of it's in the offensive line, because it was. Some of it's on the receivers. They are young and developing as route runners. I think there's a lot to talk about with the Indianapolis Colts. But for me, it's never where a team is in the first month, month and a half of the season. It's what do these coaches do with the talent that they have? It's different then what it's been in the past and it's always evolving and you are always having to develop young players. It's what is this team going to be by the time we get to November and December and it really matters in a division that, quite frankly, they should be very competitive in."
On wanting to see Andrew Luck getting rid of the ball quicker:
"Unfortunately that's really what it is. The quarterback controls everything. The quarterback controls the pass rush. If you are throwing the ball in 1.8 seconds like Tom Brady does, teams give up on blitzing you. They just aren't going to do it. They are going to drop into coverage. Now you better have some quick guys that can get open on some quick routes. You better have a running back that you feel really good about running routes out of the backfield. Your tight end better be really good. So there's always a way to do better, from the quarterback position as far as controlling the pass rush. But even with that said, even the best of the quarterbacks have to take that 1.8-1.9, 2.1-2.2 release time and then hold it with a three-man rush or when they are playing Cover-2 man and hold it and wait for the big play.
"It always makes me laugh. You think about offensive linemen if you have no sacks, or very few sacks, like they did in the Peyton Manning days or like with Tom Brady, you go, 'Oh my, that offensive line is the greatest thing that ever happened.' If they have a lot of sacks you go, 'Oh my gosh, that line stinks.' Well in reality, just look at the play of the guys. It has a lot to do with is this a quarterback that holds the ball and wants to go for a lot of big plays? I would too if I had T.Y. Hilton. This guy is unbelievable down the field. Or is he a guy that wants to get it out of his hands? Let's face it, there's a reason why Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were/are still playing into their late 30s. They didn't absorb the hits that Andrew Luck has been taking. He's still a young player. To some extent, I think he's still figuring it out. They are still trying to adapt and build this great offensive line around him. They have spent a lot of draft picks to try and make him better and I think they are going to get there. Are they going to get there this week? Maybe. It's important they get there this week because this (Houston) team can get after the quarterback."
On how teams have changed their blocking assignments against Houston with the Texans no longer having J.J. Watt in 2016:
"I don't think I've seen a guy have a much better game than Jadeveon Clowney had the other day (four tackles for loss). It was borderline otherworldly what he did in that game. It was the best of Jadeveon Clowney. Not every play. And he's not a world-class pass rusher. (Whitney) Mercilus has better pass rush moves. There are other guys that have better pass rush moves, but he's so big and he's so long and he's got these sort of Jason Pierre-Paul strides that he can make his moves with. The biggest thing watching him on tape this week was how did anyone block these guys when they had J.J. Watt in that mix, too? It's rough.
"I don't think Clowney has been as healthy in the past when he was playing with J.J. Watt, or it would have been that impossible. They have a few other guys that can do some things in there as well. Benardick McKinney is a guy that I think can really run at the linebacker position. Brian Cushing is a big, heavy hitter type of guy, as well as Quintin Demps, their safety. They've got some injuries in the back end of their secondary and this is the No. 1 pass defense in football. I think in part because of the pressure they can put on the quarterback so it's going to be a real challenge for this offense line, and a real challenge for Andrew Luck to try and get the ball out of his hands before that pressure gets there."
On the Colts trying to defend DeAndre Hopkins this weekend:
"There's going to be challenges for this defense. I don't think it's any stretch to say that DeAndre Hopkins is one of the bigger, stronger, hands of steel kind of guys that makes spectacular catches on the ball. Will Fuller is one of the fastest guys that you have in the league. This is a team that throws the ball deep. If you can't stop the deep throws, you are going to have issues. That's the beginning and the end of a lot of their stuff. You have to take away their big play and then you've got to find a way to shut down Lamar Miller, who is a guy who has some real skills. Lamar Miller didn't do a lot against Minnesota, but when you watch him, especially when he's involved in the passing game, which he hasn't been much, you better get some people around the ball carrier because if he makes you miss, he's going to be tough to catch."