The Texans (0-3) travel north for an AFC South showdown against the Colts (1-2). Houston's won two of the last three games at Lucas Oil Stadium. Here are five things to watch when the Texans and Colts square off at noon CT on Sunday.First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Shoot your shot: The Texans have been able to get chunk plays in the passing game. Through the first three weeks, Deshaun Watson has 14 completions that went for 20 or more yards. Big plays haven't been a stranger to the Houston offense, and they need to keep it up.
In just two games this season, Will Fuller, V has cracked the 100-yard mark in receiving yards each time. He's also caught a touchdown pass in both contests. Last week, of his five receptions, four were for a first down and a fifth was a 6-yard touchdown. In those two games, he's also had receptions of 37, 28, 39 and 20 yards.
"I just love playing with him and it's just fun out there with him," Fuller said of Watson. "Just having fun and just trying to continue to compete and just make some plays."
The Colts, meanwhile, have gone deep just five times for a gain of 20 or more yards.
"The offense has changed," Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. "They have a new offensive coordinator and it looks like they're putting an emphasis on some of the shorter passing game and they're having some success with it, so they might stay with it a while."
2) Be efficient in red zone: Averaging just under 400 yards per game, the Texans have moved the ball well on offense. But when they've gotten inside the opponents' 20-yard line this season, they've stalled. They're tied for 7th in the NFL in trips to the red zone per game with 3.7. But they've found the end zone less than half the time they've gotten inside the 20, with just 1.3 red zone touchdowns per game in 2018.
Getting better in that area is a major emphasis, and Watson understands why the offense has struggled there.
"Penalties," Watson said. "Negative plays. That's it. You take those two away and we pretty much are scoring those. Once you have a negative play or penalties in the red zone, the percentage goes from about 50 percent to 20 percent of scoring. You take away that and execute, and we'll be fine."
The Texans have been flagged 24 times this season. Three of those flags came last Sunday when the Texans were inside the Giants' 10-yard line, and two more came in Week 1 at New England when Houston was in a goal-to-go situation.
"Statistics tell you that when you have a negative play in the red area, you really have no chance of scoring a touchdown," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "So, I think on all of the drives where we've had to settle for a field goal, we've had a negative play. We have to figure out how to stop doing that. It's not good, and that's been one of our main issues on offense. When you have a lot of yards, it doesn't matter when you're not scoring touchdowns."
3) Rookie pass-catchers: Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins are always worthy of your attention. But the Texans spent 2018 Draft picks on pass-catchers in third-round tight end Jordan Akins, fourth-round receiver Keke Coutee and sixth-round tight end Jordan Thomas. Undrafted rookie Vyncint Smith is also on the 53-man roster and has contributed. Getting a little more out of that quartet is something to monitor.
It might be the first time we see Coutee on the field in a Texans uniform. A hamstring injury has kept the rookie from getting in a game, but he practiced on a limited basis this week and could be a go for Indianapolis.
"The leg is way better and I'm very confident in it right now," Coutee said on Monday. "I'm very close."
Receivers coach John Perry said Coutee's "quickness" and "very strong hands", among other traits, can "add one more dimension" to the Texans offense.
"I'm really excited for Keke and his opportunity as this week progresses and everything like that," Perry said. "If he continues to do the things he's doing, it'll be an exciting time for him."
Thomas and Akins, meanwhile, have combined to catch eight passes for 130 yards this season. Thomas rumbled for a 39-yard reception after catching a short throw to the right side in the first quarter against New York.
"Big guy that can run," O'Brien said. "He used to be a wide receiver, got really good hands, getting better as a blocker, so we have to continue to work with him. He's a rookie, he's young. Akins is a rookie. These guys are improving and they probably need to be involved more."
4) Attack the quarterback: J.J. Watt had three sacks last Sunday, and Crennel said he'd "take it again this week" if Watt did more of the same. Jadeveon Clowney was disruptive at times against the Giants as well, but he believes bigger things are coming.
"This week will be a lot better for me," Clowney said. "We expect that, I expect that out of myself. Just looking forward to the game."
The last time Clowney was on a football field with Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, he strip-sacked the Colts' signal-caller when the Texans were backed up against their own goal line. Crennel thinks Clowney is getting closer to that version of himself than what's shown in the first month of this season.
"We've talked about guys returning from injury that a lot of times, they've got to get into the feel of it, they've got to feel comfortable with themselves," Crennel said. "I think we saw it with J.J. and I think the same thing is occurring with Clowney."
Watt, meanwhile, has sacked Luck eight times in his career. The latter is always aware of where the 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year lines up on the field.
"You play in the League long enough, and when you play Houston twice a year, and I know he's gone through his own journey with injuries and coming back, and looking as good as ever," Luck said. "He's a special player. He's someone, you have to know where he is."
5) Get takeaways: The Texans have regressed in the turnover differential category. After getting three takeaways at New England, they've not managed to come up with an interception or fumble recovery in the last two contests.
The Colts, meanwhile, have five takeaways through their first three games, and have only coughed the ball up four times.
The two times the Texans have beaten the Colts at Indianapolis, Houston came away with a combined five takeaways in those wins.