*Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans square off against the Colts on Sunday in Indianapolis.
1. Foster, Foster and more Foster: Arian Foster has been exceptional in his career against the
Colts. In six games where he's registered a carry, the sixth-year pro has averaged 143.5 yards on 22 carries. He's scored eight touchdowns in those six contests. But the Texans are just 2-4.
At Indianapolis, he's averaged 6.6 yards a carry and tallied 102, 158 and 96 yards in three games there. Yet the Texans remain winless in the Circle City. Nevertheless, expect the man who's scored a touchdown in seven straight 2014 games to get the ball, and get it a lot, on Sunday.
"Arian Foster has done well for us consistently in his career," quarterbacks coach George Godsey
said. "He's a pretty dependable player really every game, so we expect a lot out of Arian and he's performed for us. A lot of those times when we are not throwing the football, it ends up being in Arian's hands, which from a coaching standpoint, we feel really comfortable in."
Foster's tallied 1,028 rushing yards this season, and has cracked the century mark on the ground in seven games in 2014. If he's able to do what he does best, the time of possession mark will likely be in the Texans' favor. That's imperative, according to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, because of how explosive the Colts are on offense.
"It just puts that much more of an emphasis for us on the third downs, the touchdowns in the red area, and the time of possession," Fitzpatrick said. "All that stuff is magnified in a game like this because of how explosive they are."
2. No thank you, T.Y.: As effective as Foster's been against the Colts, so too has receiver T.Y. Hilton
against Houston. In Week 6 at NRG Stadium, he eviscerated the Texans for 223 yards on nine catches, and one of those was a touchdown. In five career games against Houston, he's averaged 122.2 yards per game and 19.7 yards per reception. He's also scored six times. Hilton has the Texans' full attention, and they know he'll be a challenge.
"There's a reason why you throw the ball to the guy 19 times in one game," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "This guy is an excellent football player. He's fast, he's quick, he's got good hands, he's tough, he makes diving catches, he makes downfield catches, short catches, intermediate catches."
Hilton, as O'Brien described, can do it all. The head coach explained what must be done to stop him.
"You have to mix up how you defend him," O'Brien said. "Obviously you have to press him at the line
of scrimmage, but when you do that, he's very quick. He's hard to press, so you've got to mix in some different looks where you're playing him from off-coverage."
So far this season, Hilton has 1,295 receiving yards on 78 catches. He's scored seven times.
"He's a guy that's put the hard work in and he plays every play," cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. "You know, he never gives up on a play. Whether a guy has him uncovered, he uncovers on a play and still finds the open spots and open windows. He has the ability to take the top off the coverage."
3. Magic number?: When the Texans have limited an opponent to 19 points or less, they win.
But the Colts have scored 20 or more points in every game this year, and they average better than 31 points per game.
Quarterback Andrew Luck leads the NFL in passing with 4,305 yards this season. He's engineered 12 fourth quarter game-winning drives in his career and has the Indianapolis offense humming nicely. Pressuring him, according to linebacker Brian Cushing, is of paramount importance.
"Can't let him sit back there all day because he's that good," Cushing said. "He's that good where he can just pick you apart. Sit back there, a very strong guy and you've got to kind of get people in his face and off of his plan."
Luck's ability to escape, as well, is something the Texans must limit. Defensive end J.J. Watt said the Texans must keep the former Stratford Spartan in the pocket.
"You need to keep great pass rush lane integrity," Watt said. "Our guys know and understand what the situation is and we need to make sure we keep him contained. You do a great job with coverage down the field, but I mean it all starts with just doing your job."
4. Receiving options: Whether or not Andre Johnson plays is a big question. He was concussed last Sunday at Jacksonville, and O'Brien said the Pro Bowler's been going through the concussion protocol.
DeAndre Hopkins leads the team with 1,090 receiving yards. Johnson has 737 yards. 11 other Texans have combined for 1,036 receiving yards. Wide receiver DeVier Posey has been inactive all 13 games this season, but there's a good chance that changes on Sunday.
"He knows every position, but he's primarily an outside wide receiver," O'Brien said. "He can do some things in the slot and he can help us on certain special teams units."
He has 242 career receiving yards on 21 catches.
5. Stay special: In the first quarter of the previous meeting between these two teams, Pat McAfee surprised the Texans by exploiting a gap in the middle of the field and squibbing a kickoff that he recovered. The score at that point was 3-0 Indianapolis. Two plays later the Colts were in the end zone. It was all part of a 24-point geyser of a first quarter for Indianapolis.
Also in that game, Griff Whalen returned a pair of punts for a 15.5 yards per return average. The Texans, meanwhile were punted to four times, and kicked off to six times. Keshawn Martin had four fair catches on those punts, and all six of the kickoffs were touchbacks.