It's Colts week. It'll be Colts week again two weekends from now, but we'll worry about that one later. Now, this matchup is about as stressful as it gets. How stressful? Well, take a look at the last ten regular season games in the rivalry.
2019 - Texans 20 v. Colts 17
2019 - Colts - 30 v. Texans - 23
2018 - Colts - 24 v. Texans - 21
2018 - Texans 37 v. Colts - 34
2017 - Colts - 22 v. Texans - 13
2017 - Colts - 20 v. Texans - 14
2016 - Texans - 22 v. Colts - 17
2016 - Texans - 26 v. Colts - 23
2015 - Texans - 16 v. Colts - 10
2015 - Colts - 27 v. Texans - 20
Since 2015, the overall point discrepancy is 224 (Colts) to 212 (Texans), an average score of 22.4 to 21.2. For a matchup that wasn't much of one until 2006, this rivalry has been as close as any in the league over the past five seasons. Five wins on each side in those ten games. 1.2 points on average separation between the two. The Texans won the division four of those five seasons, but in 2018, the Colts beat the beat-up Texans 21 to 7 in the two teams' only playoff matchup. Of course, that one was made famous by, well, the clown mask. So, yeah, if the pattern follows, this should be a nailbiter. Typically, both teams have been within a game or two, at most, of one another but, this year, the Colts have a significant lead on the Texans, making this one as important as any other for the rest of the season.
The Colts have struggled a bit in three of the last four halves of football. In the first half of the Packers matchup and the two halves against Tennessee, the Colts gave up a total 73 points, but in that second half against the Packers, they saved a win by outscoring the Packers 20-3 in the second half and overtime. But, last week with a limited roster due to injuries and COVID situations, the Colts looked like a shell of the team that beat Tennessee in Nashville a few weeks prior. As a result, the Titans ran around, over and through the Colts on their way to a 45-26 win in Lucas Oil Stadium. However, with both sides of the Colts' squad getting healthy heading into this Sunday, it should be another physical AFC South bloodbath, to say the least.
With no further ado, let's get to Know, yet again, our Week Thirteen Foe - the Indianapolis Colts.
2020 Schedule (7-4)
L, @ Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20
W, Minnesota Vikings 28-11
W, New York Jets 36-7
W, @ Chicago Bears 19-11
L, @ Cleveland Browns 32-23
W, Cincinnati Bengals 31-27
W, @ Detroit Lions 41-21
L, Baltimore Ravens 24-10
W, @ Tennessee Ravens 34-17
W, Green Bay Packers 34-31
L, Tennessee Titans 45-26
Colts OFFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 104.4 ypg (22nd in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 265.6 ypg (10th)
Total offense per game - 370.0 ypg (12th)
Turnovers lost - 12 (9 INT, 3 Fumbles lost)
Expected Colts starting offense for Week Thirteen
QB - PHILIP RIVERS
RB - Nyheim Hines/Jonathan Taylor (I'm expecting him back from COVID-19 list this week)
WR - T.Y. Hilton
WR - MICHAEL PITTMAN JR.
TE - Jack Doyle/Trey Burton
TE - MO ALIE-COX
LT - Anthony Castonzo (if MCL keeps him out, it should be LeRaven Clark)
LG - Quenton Nelson
C - Ryan Kelly (I'm expecting him back given what Frank Reich has said this week)
RG - Mark Glowinski
RG - Braden Smith
Other Key Offensive pieces
RB - Jordan Wilkins
Weapon X - De'Michael Harris
WR - Zach Pascal
C - Danny Pinter
WR - Marcus Johnson
OT - Chaz Green
Bold - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2020
Keys to winning v. the Colts Offense
- The Man in the Mask returns - There's no secret that T.Y. Hilton feels very much at home at NRG Stadium, but late last November, Hilton was held in check (three catches for 18 yards) for really the first time in a long time. As expected, that defensive effort helped lead the Texans to a 20-17 win. Without Bradley Roby, though, can the Texans corral Hilton who had his best game of the season against the Titans last week? They must; it's that simple.
- What you see is not what you get - The Texans defense can be a little like a five year old on Pop Rocks - it really doesn't like to sit still at all. The good news for the Texans, though, is that could be a great thing in this matchup. The more the Texans can move around and disguise their plans, the better off they'll be, even if Colts quarterback Philip Rivers has seemingly seen everything there is to see in this game. A disguise is also important to use against the receivers and linemen as well. So, moving guys around, not giving up disguised looks could turn into a key thing for the Texans defense to slow the Colts overall offensive scheme.
- Hands up! - Philip Rivers has one of the funkiest throwing motions a great quarterback has ever had. The one thing about it is that he drops his elbow and throws sidearm the majority of the time. The 6-4 Rivers turns into a 6-0 quarterback that can get his throws batted down at the line of scrimmage. Man, if only the Texans had a guy that batted A LOT of passes down, or even intercepted them, on the roster. Yes, if only.
- Get off me, Q - The Colts should get Jonathan Taylor back for this matchup and I'd imagine Colts head coach Frank Reich wants to get back to bludgeoning defenders at the line of scrimmage. The key there is Pro Bowl guard Quenton Nelson who hammers defenders at the line of scrimmage. The Texans defenders MUST attack him, in particular, violently every time the Colts hand the ball off to Taylor or another back. VIO-LENT-LY.
- Again, turnovers are nice - See? The defense didn't get any against the Patriots and it was just a seven point win. They got three against the Lions and, well, it was a blowout. Simple math, really
Colts DEFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 101.9 ypg (7th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 209.9 ypg (6th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 311.8 ypg (5th)
Turnovers generated - 17 (12 INT, 5 Fumble recoveries - Colts are +5 in TO margin)
Expected Colts starting defense for Week Thirteen
DE - Justin Houston/Al-Quadin Muhammad
DT - DeFOREST BUCKNER (I'm expecting him back from COVID-19 list this week)
DT - Grover Stewart (just signed extension to continue dominating the interior)
DT - Denico Autry (I'm expecting him back from COVID-19 list this week)
WLB - Darius Leonard
MLB - Anthony Walker
CB - Rock Ya-Sin
CB - Kenny Moore II
S - JULIAN BLACKMON
S - KHARI WILLIS
CB - XAVIER RHODES
Other Key Defensive pieces
DE - Kemoko Turay
S - Tavon Wilson
LB - Bobby Okereke
DL - Tyquan Lewis
CB - T.J. Carrie
CB/KR - Tremon Smith
Bold - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2020
Keys to winning v. the Colts Defense
- Fast flow the other way - if there's one thing the Colts defense can do, it's run. The linebackers, in particular, can flat out fly to the football. They can also run themselves out of plays. Numerous times against the Titans outside zone, the Colts stack backers ran to a spot expecting Derrick Henry to be there and then he cut back on them for significant gains. Then, they would play it at a slower pace and Henry beat them to the spot and upfield. If they're FLYING to the spot, just cut back on them and go the other way.
- Let me count the ways - Look, without Kenny Stills, an injured Randall Cobb and suspended star Will Fuller V, it would appear the Texans have a major hole at receiver. But, what they DO have in abundance is pass catchers. They may not have a plethora of receivers, but they're not lacking for pass catchers. The running backs are excellent receivers for sure. Both running backs (C.J. Prosise and Duke Johnson) caught touchdowns last week. Shoot, Duke caught his while he was at the #1 receiver spot on the field. The tight ends are fabulous in the pass game too. There are plenty of pass catchers to put in various combinations on the field to threaten the Colts defense.
- Do whatever it takes to not let 90 & 99 wreck the game from the inside - There's really not much more to say but Grover Stewart (90) and DeForest Buckner (99) can take over the game with their violent, physical hand-to-hand combat in a quick minute. If those two are unleashing a can of whoop-well, you know, it's going to be trouble. The Texans interior must answer with even more violence to not let them take over the game.
- Find 26 in man coverage - Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin is going to be a fine player for the Colts, but he's not quite there in his second year as a starter. He's panicking a bit in coverage and giving up some big plays in man coverage. The Colts won't play a ton of man, even without Will Fuller V in the game, but when they do, I'm curious to see Ya-Sin's assignment. Regardless, attack him early and see if he doesn't give up a completion or a defensive pass interference that could erode his confidence.
- Find the holes in the zone - The Colts play cover two (zone coverage) over 30% of the time and there are ALWAYS holes in any zone coverage. Texans receiver Brandin Cooks, in particular, has done a tremendous job finding open holes in the coverage this season and he, and his teammates, will need to continue to do the same thing on Sunday.
Check out some photos from previous Texans, Colts matchups.