Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans host the Colts on Sunday Night Football in Week 9.
1. Foster's Brilliance- Lost in the hubbub surrounding each of the starting quarterbacks in Sunday night's contest is the simple fact that running back Arian Foster has been brilliant every time he's suited up against the Colts. In five career games versus Indianapolis, starting with Week 1 in 2010, Foster's rushed for the following respective yardage totals: 231, 102, 158, 165 and 96.
He's averaged 6.6 yards a pop. He's scored six times.
But the Texans are just 2-3 when he's played against Indy.
Plus, he's dealing with a balky hamstring that forced a first quarter exit two Sundays ago at Kansas
City. He was limited during the week in practice, and will be an "end of the week decision", according to head coach Gary Kubiak. But he's optimistic that he'll play.
Whether or not he goes, the hobbled Ben Tate and the newly-signed trio of Ray Graham, Dennis Johnson and Deji Karim will be in the mix to get carries as well.
Tate cracked four ribs in the loss to the Chiefs, but practiced on Wednesday. Kubiak said Tate will be active, and the fourth-year back said he expects "to help this team win on Sunday", and explained why he wants to play through the pain.
"Because I want to help this team make a turnaround," Tate said. "We haven't been living up to our standards this year and I'm all in and I believe that we can turn this thing around."
Surely, at least one from the Graham/Johnson/Karim triumvirate will be active. How the carries are divided amongst whoever is active will be something to monitor.
2. Keenum Debut, Part II- For his second straight professional start, quarterback Case Keenum will be immersed in a stadium decked out in red. It's Battle Red Sunday at Reliant Stadium, and it follows his debut at Arrowhead where Chiefs fans wore red. Regardless, Keenum is pumped to start in the city where played his college ball.
"I've always been really proud to wear the name of our city, Houston, on the front of our jersey for a long time now," Keenum said. "I think playing in this city here, especially in front of our crowd, I think
it's going to be really special."
If Keenum can replicate his 271-yard passing performance against the Chiefs, in which he completed six passes for 25 yards or more, the Texans will be in great shape. In addition to benefitting from a more hospitable environment, Keenum will also have a sturdier running back depth chart than he did two weeks ago.
"I think that it'll definitely help all aspects of the game because I think that's kind of our foundation is being able to run the ball," Keenum said.
3. Wayne's World- The Colts will be without wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The veteran pass-catcher was lost for the season with a knee injury, and how quarterback Andrew Luck adjusts to his absence will be fascinating.
"Yeah, it'll be odd," Luck said. "That's for sure. He's been such an instrumental part of my personal growth as a football player."
As explained in a blog post by ESPN.com AFC South Blogger Mike Wells, during the 121 plays Wayne has been off the field since Luck started playing quarterback last season, the second-year signal caller has completed just 23.8 percent of his passes.
Now, don't expect that number to hold on Sunday evening. Luck will surely adjust and rise above those dreadful stats. But the question will be, how *well *can he adjust.
Expect to see even more targets for receivers T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey, as well as tight end Coby Fleener.
- Watt's up, J.J.?**- Similar to Foster, Watt has enjoyed success against the Colts in his young career. With four sacks in as many games, he's also racked up 24 tackles, four batted passes and a forced fumble as well as a fumble recovery. He dropped Luck three times for a sack the last time the Colts were at Reliant Stadium, but Watt is mightily impressed by the Colts' quarterback.
"He has a great arm," Watt said. "He can do a lot of different things and he's a very smart football player."
The Indianapolis offensive line has allowed 15 sacks so far this season, but ranks 11th in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.
5. Matching Mathis- Outside linebacker Robert Mathis has adapted nicely to the weakside outside linebacker spot. It's his third position in as many years, as he was the strongside outside linebacker last season, and a defensive end in the 4-3 defense in 2011. He's atop the NFL with 11.5 sacks, and won't just square off against left tackle Duane Brown. Kubiak said the entire offensive line needs to be prepared for Mathis.
"He's playing everywhere if they get you in must-pass situations, not many people have blocked him this year," Kubiak said. "We're well aware. It's easy to say you've got to go in and help this guy or chip this guy or do that, but they're going to play Mathis enough places where it's going to be very difficult."
Settling into the new position has been one of the big keys to Mathis' success.
"Obviously, it was a huge transition a year ago for him, going from a 4-3 end to a stand up outside linebacker, and those types of things," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said. "He's been doing great things for his entire career. So we're not at all surprised just because of his work ethic and the work he puts in."