"Behind Enemy (Side)Lines" is an ongoing series with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, Mike Chappell, who has covered the Colts since 1984 and is with ABC affiliate RTV6 and TheIndyChannel.com, gives insight on the Texans division rival.
How does Indy view their matchups with the Houston Texans? Is it as a big of a rivalry for Indianapolis as it historically has been for the Texans?
"I still think people look historically at Tennessee, although they have fallen on hard times these last several years, through the years has been more of a rival. That goes back to the Steve McNair, Eddie George, Peyton Manning years. Now, anyone that pays attention realizes that the AFC South division goes through Houston or Indy because both teams, they've shared this division back and forth the past couple of years. The only issue is: can Houston step up and come back from what happened last year, that nasty season? I think people still view Houston as a strong team, especially down there."
*Andrew Luck, leads the league with over 1,600 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. If you had to pick one area of growth/improvement in Year 3 what would that be?
"It wouldn't be Luck's improvement, it would be the team improving around him which I always thought would be his next step, how he has elevated those around him. They've got a really strong supporting cast. The receivers are as deep of a receiving corps as they've had with Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, T.Y. Hilton, the young kid Donte Moncrief. The tight ends are solid threats with (Coby) Fleener and Dwayne Allen. The running backs are not going to have the gaudy numbers like an Arian Foster but they're getting the job done; they're getting about four yards a carry. If they can get to a 110, 120 yards between them a good game, this is a good group.
"The only issue with Luck right now is his offensive line. He's played pretty well but they've been shifting the middle quite a bit and that may happen again this week. His plays by themself? I don't see a lot of difference. The difference has been those players around him that are healthy. It's a very, very good group."
The Colts seem to have the running game going this year. How have they been able to jumpstart Trent Richardson? There was a lot of criticism on him last year. Also, how has his role differed from that of Ahmad Bradshaw? Both are have put up similar numbers rushing this year, although Bradshaw has more touchdowns.
"I don't know if they've jumpstarted Richardson because he's still the source of criticism because he hasn't had the big gains. He had 79 yards against Philly and we thought that was a great game. That tells you how low the expectations are. He's playing better. The problem we're running into is that neither one of them is getting a ton of carries. It's not like Arian Foster who gets 25 carries a game to where you can wear defenses down. He's getting probably 15, 16 carries a game. I think he's playing pretty well. There's still times the offensive line isn't helping him. He's getting hit behind the line.
"The way they are using Richardson (is) as a starter and then bring Bradshaw in. It's just sort of a feel on who's playing well. Bradshaw's been more of the third-down hurry-up guy when they are in hurry-up offense and he's playing well. He's already got career-high touchdown receptions. He had three in his career coming in and he's had four this year. He gives them that burst. He can get you breakaways, not 80-yard breakaways, but 25 yards in a hurry. It's a nice combination. They are not wearing down either one of them too much, so that's so far so good with the running game."
With all the injuries and moving around on the Colts offensive line, what is the game plan for facing Watt this week?
"The Texans move him (Watt) all over so the first part is finding him. The issue is going to be, they are going to start Jonotthan Harrison, undrafted rookie at center, for the second game. I'm guessing Jack Mewhort, rookie left guard, won't be play, hasn't practiced for a while with an ankle injury. Hugh Thornton, their second-year right guard hasn't practiced this week with a back injury. I don't know if he plays or not. If not, they are going to have Lance Louis at right guard and Joe Reitz at left guard. So, the interior is vulnerable from the way that you look at it. That's a concern, is how are these guys going to look? They like the depth they have on the offensive line but when they're using the depth all the time, it's just kind of dicey. We'll see. I'm a little skeptical. If Mewhort and Thornton were there, I'd feel better but I don't think either one will play so all of a sudden, the interior looks like it's going to have problems holding up against Watt and the rest of those guys."
The Texans o-line is used to facing Robert Mathis twice a year and now he's out for the year. Who has stepped up for the Colts as a playmaker and/or leader of that defense?
"The leader of the defense is Cory Redding. He's in his 10th or 11th year, playing really well as a defensive end. He's more of the 'down-and-dirty' type of guy. He does the hard job as far as working to get the run and the occasional pressure. The 2013 first-round pick Bjoern Werner, who had a slow rookie season, slow start to this season, had two sacks last week. I think he's kind of getting his feet under him. (LB) Erik Walden played pretty well. So, just getting contributions from everybody because there's no way that they can replace Mathis with one guy. Sergio Brown had sack last week. They're doing a good job bringing pressure from the secondary, from the linebackers. It's been a collective effort. That's why if they can keep Arian Foster from going crazy and maybe force Fitzpatrick to throw the ball down the field, they can get some pressure on him but again, it all starts with stopping Arian Foster."
The (3-2) Texans will host the (3-2) Indianapolis Colts for their Pink Ribbon Game on Thursday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:25 p.m. on CBS/ KHOU-11 and SportsRadio 610.