INDIANAPOLIS— In the history of 22 Colts/Texans matchups, there's been one constant on the playing field.
Every single time the two teams have met, there was Reggie Wayne.
That constant will come to an end on Sunday night when the Colts offense takes on the league's No. 1 defense without its security blanket.
Life for the rest of the season will be without Wayne and that doesn't mean expectations change for the Colts wide receivers against the league's top pass defense.
"We ask them all to prepare like starters week in and week out because you never know when something's going to happen or when your opportunity is going to present itself," head coach Chuck Pagano said on Wednesday.
"Certainly, these guys now have a great opportunity. But it's an opportunity that the rest of the guys in that locker room, they're expecting those guys to go out and play and play well because they've been working at it and because things like this happen. They better know what to do. They better play at a high level and they better produce."
Those receivers will encounter a Texans defense with a pair of telling stats on why the unit has been so successful in 2013.
Houston leads the NFL in forcing three-and-outs (30.7 percent of the time) and the defense is particularly formidable on third-and-four-or-less situations (26.1 percent conversion rate, 15 percent better then any other team in the NFL).
Pagano ran through nearly a dozen names of the Texans personnel on Wednesday including "probably the best defensive player in football in J.J. Watt."
"They've got game-wreckers all over the place. They got a front seven that is as good as anybody in football," Pagano said.
It was Watt's name who continually came up when Colts offensive players talked about the opposing defense on Sunday.
Last season, Watt was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year thanks to 20.5 sacks and an incredible 16 pass deflections from the defensive end position.
Andrew Luck's pointed to Watt's "motor" as to why he's at the top of the Colts offensive game plan this week.
"He's got the physical attributes and the strength and speed," Luck said of Watt. "He's chasing guys down 30 yards away. (He's) making plays everywhere."
During last year's meeting in Houston, Watt sacked Luck three times. Two weeks later, the Colts kept Watt away from Luck in earning a 29-16 regular season finale victory.
A luxury the Colts have this season in trying to neutralize Watt is right tackle Gosder Cherilus.
This season Cherilus and the Colts offensive line have already limited two of the game's elite pass rushers in Miami's Cameron Wake (one tackle and no sacks) and San Francisco's Aldon Smith (six tackles, one sack).
The task only grows this weekend and it's something the Colts offensive line relishes.
"It's the NFL," Cherilus said. "Every week you have to get ready for the best talents in the world and this week we have another good one coming up."