Preview of the Enemy: Indianapolis Colts
The 2013 Houston Texans season isn’t dead yet, but it’s on life support and the plug will be pulled if they lose to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. A loss to Indianapolis would put the Texans four games behind the Colts, five with the tiebreaker factored in, with just eight games remaining. They wouldn’t be mathematically eliminated, but realistically their playoff chances would be dead. It’s possible they could sneak into the playoffs as the sixth seed with a 9-7 record, but they would need to go on a 7-1 run to close the season with several very tough games (Broncos, Patriots, at Colts) remaining.
Can they beat the Colts? That will depend on if the Colts are the team that beat the Seahawks and dominated the 49ers, or the team that lost to the Dolphins at home and looked awful on the road against the Chargers. How much will the loss of Reggie Wayne hurt their offense? They have other weapons like T.Y. Hilton that can beat defenses deep, but no one as consistent and reliable as Wayne. The Colts are still a young team that suffers from inconsistent play at times, but they have a high ceiling and have shown an ability to raise their level of play in big moments.
Don’t Turn It Over – As a team the Colts are +7 in turnover differential (ranked 6th), light years better than the Texans who are at -11 (30th in the NFL).
Robert Mathis – The veteran linebacker leads the league in sacks with 11.5 through seven games played this season; Mathis has more than one sack in five games this season. The Texans rank 20th in sacks allowed and 27th in QB hits allowed this season, continuing the downward trend in the performance level of their offensive line over the last couple of seasons. While Keenum did many things well in his first start, he struggled as many young quarterbacks do with identifying the blitz quickly and finding his hot receiver. Kubiak would be wise to give his young signal caller some help and leave in a tight end or back to block on most plays. Going five wide doesn’t exactly play into a strength of the Texans so why even risk giving Mathis a one on one battle with a lineman?
Extending the Play – The Texans will face another quarterback this week capable of extending the play with his legs and even scrambling for first downs and touchdowns. So far this season Andrew Luck is averaging 26 yards rushing per game, 6.5 yards per attempt, and even has three rushing touchdowns. Russell Wilson killed the Texans with his legs in leading the Seahawks’ fourth quarter comeback in week four. So far this season the Texans rank 25th in sacks and have struggled to get pressure on the quarterback. The Texans lack of a consistent pass rush combined with Luck’s ability to extend the play with his legs could add up to a long day for the Houston defense.
Rush Defense – The Colts rank just 26th in the league in yards allowed per rushing attempt (4.5), unfortunately the Texans top two running backs are both banged up. There’s a decent chance both Foster and Tate will still play, but there is reason to be concerned about how effective they will be. Before the injury, Foster was enjoying a bounce back season of sorts; his 4.5 yards per carry average this year is his highest mark since the 2010 season.
Trent Richardson – The second year back has fallen well short of expectations since coming over to the Colts in a trade. Richardson has averaged just 3.04 yards per carry (75/228), and has gone over 50 yards rushing only twice in five games with the Colts. His low yards per carry average has reached the point of being his normal level of play and not just a fluke; Richardson averaged 3.6 yards per carry last season, tied for the second worst average of any back with over 200 carries. He’ll have a chance to get well this week against a Texans defense that ranks 20th in yards per attempt allowed and 28th in yards per game allowed.
Prediction: Colts 23, Texans 20