Know Your Foe | Indianapolis Colts, Week 13

After years of close contests against the Indianapolis Colts, the Week 6 matchup appeared to be headed in that same direction. The Texans started off the third quarter with a defensive stop and trailed by just seven at 10-3. I could feel IT happening the way it seemed to always happen when these two teams played.

Then, the dam broke.

A Texans interception led to a TE Mo Alie-Cox touchdown. A long Jonathan Taylor run led to another Colts TD to make it 24-3 and the idea of a close game in the fourth quarter went right out the Lucas Oil Stadium doors. It also jump-started the Colts season as they won five out of the next seven. Furthermore, since that interception, the Colts have outscored their opponents by ninety points in six and a half games (232 - 142). Over that same time span, they have averaged 35.7 points per game while giving up just under 22 points per game.

I don't know, maybe it was that Hard Knocks show that got 'em started. Or, maybe it was just water finding its level. The Colts dealt with a ton of injuries early in the season, but in that game against the Texans they got T.Y. Hilton back. Then, they got back All-Pro Quenton Nelson. Then, the most important thing happened - Jonathan Taylor took over as the best healthy back in the NFL. Shoot, Derrick Henry goes to IR, and maybe the AFC South would catch a break.

NOPE!

He's been arguably the best healthy non-QB in the league through the last six and a half games. Here's hoping for that to change on Sunday. As such, let's get to know this version of the Indianapolis Colts in preparation for the second meeting between these two teams in 2021.

2021 Schedule (6-6)

Week 1 - L Seattle Seahawks 28-16
Week 2 - L Los Angeles Rams 27-24
Week 3 - L @ Tennessee Titans 25-16
Week 4 - W @ Miami Dolphins 27-17
Week 5 - L @ Baltimore Ravens 31-25 (OT)
Week 6 - W Houston Texans 31-3
Week 7 - W @ San Francisco 49ers 30-18
Week 8 - L Tennessee Titans 34-31
Week 9 - W New York Jets 45-30
Week 10 - W Jacksonville Jaguars 23-17
Week 11 - W @ Buffalo Bills 41-15
Week 12 - L Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-31
Week 13 - @ Houston Texans
Week 14 - BYE
Week 15 - New England Patriots
Week 16 - @ Arizona Cardinals
Week 17 - Las Vegas Raiders
Week 18 - @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Colts OFFENSE (in 2021 regular season)

Rushing Yards Per game - 144.5 ypg (4th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 221.8 ypg (22nd)
Total offense per game - 366.3 ypg (11th)
Turnovers lost - 15 (9 Fumbles lost, 6 INT)

Expected Colts starting offense for Week 13

Table inside Article
Position Name
QB CARSON WENTZ
RB Jonathan Taylor
TE Jack Doyle OR Mo Alie-Cox
WR Michael Pittman Jr.
WR Zach Pascal
WR T.Y. Hilton
LT ERIC FISHER
LG Quenton Nelson
C Ryan Kelly
RG Mark Glowinski
RT Braden Smith

Key Offensive Non-Starters

Table inside Article
Position Name
RB Nyheim Hines
TE KYLEN GRANSON
WR Ashton Dulin
OT JULIÉN DAVENPORT

Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2021

Keys to winning v. the Colts Offense

  1. Force the P - The Colts run their fair share of RPOs, which stands for Run Pass Option. If a defense jumps hard on the run, QB Carson Wentz has the option to pull the ball and throw to one of his capable pass catchers on a variety of routes. The last thing I really want to see is RB Jonathan Taylor run the ball, so I'll take Wentz throwing it, even though he's been slinging it fairly well lately.
  2. Dangerous spread - When the Colts get in 11 personnel and detach one of the tight ends in either a 2x2 look or 3x1 open look, I think they're as dangerous as any team the Texans have faced. Why? 28 reasons, that's why. RB #28 Jonathan Taylor is allowed a sliver of space (or more in most cases) and his vision and initial burst to and through a hole puts maximum pressure on a defense that is spread sideline to sideline. The Colts love to challenge a defense with that spread. If your defense puts just five in the box, they'll hammer Taylor. If the defense puts an extra body in the box, Wentz will check to a quick throw to the most available receiver with fewer bodies out in coverage. On top of all the different aspects of the Colts offense, this might be the most difficult scheme for any defense to contain.
  3. Force the bad decisions - Wentz isn't completely cured of his "what the heck was THAT?" decisions. He'll still make a head-scratching play like the one that cost the Colts a two-yard pick-six against Tennessee. However, the Texans defensive front must FORCE those decisions. Allowed to sit in the pocket and deliver with little pressure, Wentz has been solid over the past six and a half games, but with some pressure in his face, compressed pocket well at his feet, Wentz is far from immune from making the best decisions repeatedly. So, it's about getting that pressure and keeping him in the well to force bad things for Wentz and the Colts offense.
  4. He's alive (dang it!) - T.Y. Hilton is coming to NRG Stadium...AGAIN! When the Texans have beat the Colts in the recent past, Hilton has been held in check, but in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2020 he went off and the Texans lost as a result. The "worst" game he's had in a W at NRG Stadium was five catches for 88 yards (2015), which equates to an 85 catch/1,496 yard season over the course of a 17-game season. And, there isn't a receiver alive who wouldn't take those numbers. So, here's hoping SOMEONE, ANYONE (or more) can slow the Ghost down just one time.

Colts DEFENSE (in 2021 regular season)

Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 114.2 ypg (18th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 244.7 ypg (19th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 358.8 ypg (17th)
Turnovers generated - 27 (14 INT, 13 Fumble recoveries - Colts are +12 in TO margin)

Expected Colts starting defense for Week 13

Table inside Article
Position Name
DE KWITY PAYE (injured last week)
DT DeForest Buckner (“pretty banged up” - Frank Reich - one to watch in lead up to Week 13)
DT Grover Stewart
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad
LB Darius Leonard
LB Bobby Okereke
LB Zaire Franklin
CB Kenny Moore II
S ANDREW SENDEJO
S George Odum (Khari Willis - Frank Reich was “hopeful” that Willis could come back from IR last week but wasn’t active
CB Xavier Rhodes

Key Defensive Non-Starters

Table inside Article
Position Name
DT Kemoko Turay
DE DAYO ODEYINGBO
DE Ben Banogu
DT Taylor Stallworth
S JAHLEEL ADDAE
S JOSH JONES
CB/KR Isaiah Rodgers
CB Rock Ya-Sin (when in nickel, Moore II goes inside, Ya-Sin to the outside)

Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2021

Keys to winning v. the Colts Defense

  1. No Buck? - One player that has routinely dominated the game against the Texans in his two years in Indianapolis is DT DeForest Buckner, but Buckner has been dealing with a bad knee, gutting out the last couple of games against Buffalo and Tampa Bay. However, there's a thought that he might not quite be right to play in this game against the Texans. With a Bye Week on tap for the Colts in Week 14, resting Buckner would give him three weeks of rest before getting back to the grind in the middle of the defensive line. So, I'm all for the big man getting some rest on Sunday as he's one of the best interior players in the NFL.
  2. That said... - Even if Buckner is out of this game, an unheralded veteran has stepped up to aid the Colts interior - Taylor Stallworth. He played 28 snaps in the win over the Texans and just 23 combined snaps in the two games that followed. However, on a Thursday night when all depth is required and requested, Stallworth finished with two sacks, two TFL and three QB hits on just 22 snaps against the New York Jets. Since then, he's not played fewer than 22 snaps in the Colts last three games. As such, Stallworth has produced 3.0 sacks, 4.0 TFL and eight QB hits. So, it's not as if Buckner's absence opens up a gaping hole in the defense as Stallworth has worked his guts out to produce in Buckner's stead.
  3. Sir Punch-A-Lot - He calls himself 'The Maniac' and that moniker fits Darius Leonard well, but, to me, on the field, he's Sir Punch-A-Lot. Leonard has grown to a point where he doesn't just go make a tackle. In fact, he's not even thinking about making a tackle. He's going to punch at the football EVERY time he's near the ball. He punched one out against us last time and of course, we know what he did at the end of last year's matchup in Indianapolis (hint: same thing). He had a drive-by punch out on the Buccaneers last week as well. Ball security is every offense's number one mantra, but with 53 on the field, it's that much more important.
  4. The Safety Dance - When the Texans faced the Colts in Week 6, starters Khari Willis and future star Julian Blackmon were locked in and ready to roll. Shortly after that game, Blackmon was lost for the year, and five weeks ago, Willis was placed on IR. Blackmon is out for the season, but Willis was thought to potentially be ready for last week's game against Tampa Bay. Even if Willis is back for this week, the CPU of the defense, that duo of Willis and Blackmon, isn't fully complete and hopefully, that can lead to some opportunities for the Texans passing game.

See the Texans host the Colts in-person on December 5 at NRG Stadium in Week 13.Kickoff is set for noon CT. Click here for tickets

The Houston Texans roster in photos.

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