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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time to open up the divisional slate here in 2018.
The Colts and Texans will meet in Indianapolis on Sunday, in their first non-December game in Indy since the 2010 season.
Here are 7 things to watch as the Colts take on the Texans at 1:00 PM:
1. Protect The Edge
-Outside of J.J. Watt terrorizing the Giants last week for 3.0 sacks, him and Jadeveon Clowney have been quiet this season (no other sacks). The talented defensive line duo will see Le’Raven Clark at left tackle and Denzelle Good at right tackle this week. On paper, this doesn’t look ideal for the Colts, but Indy’s offensive line group has been better than you would expect with Anthony Castonzo having yet to play in 2018.
2. Finish Drives
-Frank Reich was disgusted with how his team performed in the red zone last week. Going 1-of-5 in the red zone cost the Colts a chance at being 2-1 through three weeks. While Reich will point to some play calling for a few of the red zone hiccups, it was mostly just a general lack of execution when the Colts got inside the 20-yard line.
3. Hit On Some Chunks
-It’s been talked about all week long. Is Andrew Luck’s arm strength not all the way there? Why haven’t the Colts hit on more balls down the field? Reich points to a multitude of reasons for the lack of big plays, but he knows that the Colts have to improve in this area. Remember, T.Y. Hilton has had some huge games against the Texans before.
4. Contain Watson
-“That’s the game,” is how defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus described trying to contain Deshaun Watson in Week Four. The Colts cannot let Watson extend plays and make unscripted plays with his feet. This change in defensive scheme was supposed to help them in defending mobile quarterbacks. We will see if they decide to assign a spy (Darius Leonard?) on Watson.
5. Limit Hopkins
–The days of Vontae Davis shadowing DeAndre Hopkins are gone. Hopkins caught 13 touchdowns last season and can single-handily change a game. He’s averaging right around 7 catches and 90 yards per game in the first three weeks, so the Colts better know where No. 10 is pre-snap and have a plan to keep him in check.
6. Establish Divisional Presence
-In an odd scheduling quirk, the Colts will play just one divisional game in the first two months of the season. That comes this Sunday against the Texans. Since winning 16 straight divisional games from 2012-15, the Colts are just 6-9 against the AFC South since then. Sunday might be the ‘easiest’ divisional game the Colts have this year.
7. Injuries On A Short Week
-This spills into next week with the Colts taking on the Patriots in less than a week, on Thursday Night Football. Any injury from the Texans game is probably going to bring that player’s availability for Thursday’s game against the Patriots into serious question. If Anthony Castonzo can continue to practice early next week, maybe he can play next Thursday. But it might be more difficult for a guy like Jack Doyle, who didn’t practice this week.
Bowen’s Prediction: Colts, 24-20. Unlike last week, the Colts aren’t playing with house money. Playing an 0-3, divisional team at home, the Colts really need this one to keep the positive vibes going from the first month of the season. Talent and stats wise, the Texans are not an 0-3 team. They have talent at key positions and their stats are much more middle of the pack so far in 2018. Granted, the Colts have played better than a 1-2 team. For the Colts to secure their first divisional win of 2018, they need to contain Deshaun Watson, make sure DeAndre Hopkins doesn’t change the game and assign the needed resources for Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt. I don’t view this as a definite win at all for the Colts. But I think returning to home, I see Andrew Luck and the offense finishing off drives and ending the first quarter of the season with a 2-2 record. This is a game for Malik Hooker to step up and find a game-changing interception with the Texans not afraid to push the ball down the field.