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'08 Game Preview: Colts


As the Texans gear up for training camp, excitement for the 2008 season continues to build. Here is an in-depth look at each of the team's regular season games with some insights from SportsRadio 610's Marc Vandermeer.

Teams: Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, Oct. 5)

Game Preview: The Indianapolis Colts will visit Reliant Stadium in Week 5, and not much has changed for a team that finished 13-3 last season under coach Tony Dungy.

Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning, who had 4,040 passing yards and 31 touchdowns in 2007, will continue to helm the offense. When Manning visited Houston last season, he struggled in the first half and threw for just one touchdown in the game. Indy secured a 30-24 win thanks to a strong performance from kicker Adam Vinatieri, who booted in three field goals. To contain Manning, the Texans will have to get creative with their blitz packages, moving around defensive end Mario Williams on the line and using linebacker Rosevelt Colvin to rush the passer from the opposite side.

{QUOTE}Reggie Wayne, who notched 1,510 receiving yards last season, and Anthony Gonzalez will return as reliable targets at wideout. However, the health of receiver Marvin Harrison remains a question mark. Harrison missed most of 2007 because of an injury to his left knee and is expected to sit out most of training camp to keep his legs fresh for the season. Indy also has to find a replacement for tight end Ben Utecht, who backed up Dallas Clark and caught 31 passes. Clark and Utecht were used in two-tight end sets, so Clark could be catching a lot more balls this season. The Texans' secondary, which probably will be without cornerback Dunta Robinson at this point, will need second-year pro Fred Bennett to step up and make big plays. This also could be a game where rookie cornerback Antwaun Molden shows off his speed and athleticism and comes up with a pick.

The Colts were effective last season on the ground thanks to a solid year from running back Joseph Addai, who recorded 1,072 yards rushing. Addai ran for 72 yards and two touchdowns last year against the Texans in Houston. If the Texans can hold Addai to a sub-70 night and contain backup Dominic Rhodes, they should be in pretty good shape defensively.

On offense, the Texans will face two key players coming off of injuries, defensive end Dwight Freeney (Lis Franc foot injury) and safety Bob Sanders (shoulder surgery). But that doesn't mean the Texans will be lining up against a weakened unit. Last year, the Colts' defense allowed just 16.4 points per game, which was the best in the NFL. Cornerback Marlin Jackson racked up 15 tackles in Reliant Stadium last year and made life difficult for Houston's receivers, who were playing without Andre Johnson. The Colts also sacked quarterback Matt Schaub three times, and Houston gained only 40 yards rushing in the game. The Texans will have to execute a balanced attack, perhaps changing things up with third-down back Steve Slaton, to gain traction offensively. If the rushers can get to the outside corners and Schaub can connect with Johnson on deep plays, then the Texans' offense could match up well against the Colts.

"You might see some weakening of the armor here for the Colts," Vandermeer said. "They won 13 games last year. I think this is a team that could take a step back. Now, a step back to 11-5 – give me that kind of step back. We'd like to take a step forward to 10-6 at Reliant."

Key Matchups: Texans secondary covering wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Running back Ahman Green getting past the Colts' defensive line.

Vandermeer's pick: "I think they do it here at home. Sitting here in June and July, I can pick them. If the Colts are more than a three-point favorite in this one, I'd be surprised. I wouldn't be surprised if the Texans were slightly favored, especially if they have some success on the road against Jacksonville and Tennessee."

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