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Five things to watch for - Texans vs. Colts


Robinson is happy to be playing in a game of such high importance.

Here are five key players, matchups and things to watch for in Sunday's AFC South showdown with the Indianapolis Colts:

High-stakes affair:With the defending Super Bowl champions coming to town, the division lead on the line and a perfect 3-0 record at stake, Deep Steel Sunday is shaping up to be the biggest game in Texans franchise history.

"I tell you what, we're pretty fired up, man," center Steve McKinney, a former Colt, said. "This is exciting, to be 2-0 and playing the World Champs here at our place. I don't think you could've had it set up any better than the way it is, so we're definitely excited."

That big-game excitement is a welcome change for long-time Texans veterans.

"It's my first time," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "It's a great feeling for players that think they should be out there; this will be your big chance to put you name out there and to get your team out there. It's going to be a great atmosphere and it's going to be a lot of fun."

But while this kind of hype is unparalleled in Texans franchise history, head coach Gary Kubiak is keeping his players grounded.

"We prepare every week the same way…we see every game as important," he said. "I think our players can feel what's going on around the city, and that's fine. That's good. They've worked hard to be in that position. But they've got to go play well just like they have the first two weeks to have a chance to be successful. I just want them to have fun and go play well."

Opportunity Sunday:Kubiak confirmed on Friday that Andre Johnson's sprained knee will keep him out of action against the Colts and that rookie Jacoby Jones will start in his place alongside Kevin Walter. Andre' Davis, fresh off the inactive list, and kick returner Jerome Mathis will join them in the mix at wideout.

"We'll play all four of them," Kubiak said. "We're going to have a rotation system, and it will take all four of them for us to be successful without Andre (Johnson) in there. So we'll get them all ready to go."

It's the first career start for Jones, and although he and Walter only have two catches apiece this season, the rookie from Lane College is ready to step into the spotlight.

"Everybody knows Andre plays a big role in this team - (those are) some hard shoes to fill," Jones said. "So I've just got to step up and when they call my number, make plays."

"He's a very confident young man and player," quarterback Matt Schaub said of Jones. "He goes out and he knows his responsibility and executes it. He knows what he can do and his ability. If we can just give him a chance and give him the ball, he can make plays for us."

Dayne down?:The Texans' ability to run the ball and keep Peyton Manning off the field was important to begin with and became an even bigger factor with Johnson sidelined. Now, it appears the game status of Ron Dayne is in jeopardy because of a chest injury.

"He'll be a game-time decision," Kubiak said of Dayne. "Ronnie's still a little sore. He did practice today; it was a little bit limited. I'll make a game-time decision with him."

Dayne rumbled for 153 of the Texans' 191 rushing yards against the Colts last season. He has as many carries (31) as Ahman Green this season, and though his yards-per-carry average has been moderate, he's been a bruiser late in games, helping the Texans control the clock and hold onto leads in their two victories.

If Dayne doesn't play, Samkon Gado will be activated and see his first playing time of the season. The Colts' rush defense is 21st in the league, giving up 123.5 yards per game. They have only ceded one rushing touchdown, however. Gado and Green, the four-time Pro Bowler, will be looking to change that stat Sunday.

The Peyton Manning effect:Manning hasn't skipped a beat since capturing the Super Bowl MVP Trophy back in February. The seven-time Pro Bowler is 46-72 for 600 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Colts' offense to 416.5 yards (fourth in the NFL) and 31.5 points per game (third).

"I've never seen anybody better; I'm going to be honest with you," Kubiak said. "He's got total command of the game of football, not just their offense. Some of the throws he's making and the way he diagnoses a defense and the things he's getting done at the line of scrimmage, it may be a long time before we ever see that again."

It's a given that Manning will make plays each game. The Texans' strategy is to limit how often he does so.

"I think the biggest thing is not making mistakes," Robinson said. "Even when he identifies what you're in, you still have to play that defense. We just can't make mistakes. That's where a lot of teams get hurt. They give up a lot of big plays to them. We have to stand our ground and make it a 12-round fight."

Applying the pressure: The Texans' defensive front has been formidable through the first two games of the season, tallying six sacks. Things get considerably tougher this Sunday. Over the past four seasons, Manning has been sacked an average of 15.5 times, a tad less than once a game.

"He's a guy that doesn't get sacked a lot, so when we do get back there, we've got to try to hit him," defensive end Anthony Weaver said. "He's just one of those guys that you've got to be persistent, because you might beat your guy two or three times and the ball's gone, but that one time when you do beat him, he might be holding onto it and you've got to take advantage of it."

Rookie defensive tackle Amobi Okoye said the highlight of his pro career was his first NFL sack at Carolina. That might quickly change if he brings down Manning on Sunday.

"That would mean a lot," he said. "Who in the world doesn't want to sack Peyton Manning as a defensive player, especially as a defensive lineman? He is an all-pro quarterback and probably going to go down as one of the best to ever play the game."

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