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Know Your Foe: Indianapolis Colts | Week 18


It's COLTS WEEK…again! And, this one means even more than ever, literally.

Back in 2018, the Texans and Colts met in a Wild Card playoff game after meeting twice in the regular season. That game was the most important game that these two had ever played against one another and the Colts won that day. It's a gut punch that's lingered for five years and nothing will take away the horrid feeling of that day. Now, it's time to play the most important REGULAR SEASON matchup between these two teams.

In Indy.

At Lucas Oil Stadium, the good 'ol House of Texans Horrors.

For a playoff spot, thought by many to be inconceivable back in week two when these teams first met.

The Colts-Texans winner is IN the playoffs and will closely watch Jaguars v. Titans on Sunday, as a Jaguars loss will result in a division title. Meanwhile, the loser of Saturday's contest will spend Sunday going through locker clean out day. There couldn't be a more polar opposite result - clean out your locker and leave for the winter/spring or celebrate making it to the playoffs with more football to play.

Now, after a month's long training camp in searing heat, three preseason games and 16 regular season games, no one has come THIS far…just to have come THAT far. At the outset of the 2023 campaign, no one really expected the Texans or Colts to be 9-7 with so much on the line in this final matchup. Regardless, not being able to finish the 2023 season with a win will make the loser's season more than bittersweet, especially in the immediate aftermath.

So, yeah, this one is big but as C.J. Stroud said after the win over the Tennessee Titans last weekend…

"The Time is now."

It most certainly will be on Saturday night in Indianapolis. Call up the cast of Parks and Rec. Let David Letterman know. Invite Mario Andretti from the Brickyard. 8:15 PM Indianapolis time will kickoff a "win & in" situation for the Texans and their week 18 foe. We know them well, but let's get to Know the Texans' foe for week 18 - the Indianapolis Colts.

2023 Colts Schedule (9-7)

Week 1 - L Jacksonville Jaguars 31-21

Week 2 - W @ Houston Texans 31-20

Week 3 - W @ Baltimore Ravens 22-19

Week 4 - L Los Angeles Rams 23-19

Week 5 - W Tennessee Titans 23-16

Week 6 - L @ Jacksonville Jaguars 37-20

Week 7 - L Cleveland Browns 39-38

Week 8 - L New Orleans Saints 38-27

Week 9 - W @ Carolina Panthers 27-13

Week 10 - W @ New England Patriots 10-6

Week 11 - BYE

Week 12 - W Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20

Week 13 - W @ Tennessee Titans 31-28

Week 14 - L @ Cincinnati Bengals 34-14

Week 15 - W Pittsburgh Steelers 30-13

Week 16 - L @ Atlanta Falcons 29-10

Week 17 - W Las Vegas Raiders 23-20

Week 18 - Houston Texans

Colts OFFENSE (in 2023 regular season)

Rushing Yards Per game - 114.5 ypg (13th in the NFL)

Passing Yards Per game - 220.8 ypg (20th)

Total offense per game - 335.3 ypg (15th)

Turnovers lost - 21 (11 Fumbles lost,10 INT)

Expected Colts starting offense for Week 18


RB - Jonathan Taylor

TE - Mo Alie-Cox

WR - Michael Pittman Jr.


WR - Alec Pierce

LT - Bernhard Raimann

LG - Quenton Nelson

C - Ryan Kelly

RG - Will Fries

RT - Braden Smith

Key Offensive Non-Starters

TE - Kylen Granson


RB - Zack Moss (missed last few games with an injury)




Italics - Rookie

ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023

Keys to winning v. the Colts Offense

  1. The Best Trio in NFL - I don't have any scientific knowledge to back this statement up; it's just my trained football eye. The Colts G-C-G trio is the best in the league, at worst top three in the league. Last year, it was clear that Quenton Nelson wasn't quite himself but this year, he's back to 100%, playing as violently and explosively as ever before. Ryan Kelly is a technician at center and works well with either of his guards. The surprise, in some sense, has been the high level of play from Will Fries at RG. When I reviewed the week two Texans' loss to the Colts, I came away SUPER impressed with Fries' power, hands and agility. Now, with Pro Bowl RB Jonathan Taylor back in the fold, and perhaps a rested Zack Moss, the Texans interior defenders will have their hands full with that group. It's imperative that the interior defenders hold the point of attack well in the run game, but muddy up the pass pocket with pressure for Colts QB Gardner Minshew. Speaking of…
  1. Different Picture - When Gardner Minshew started for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2019 season, there was a distinct difference in Gardner Minshew and Minshew Magic. He was two different players when he was on schedule and forced to throw from the pocket on time and on rhythm vs. the play creating demon who scared defenses when he left the pocket. In this Shane Steichen Colts' offense, he doesn't need to be Minshew Magic as much anymore. The ball is out of his hand quickly. He knows now what he's seeing from the defense. It's imperative to change the picture for Minshew throughout this game. He peppered the Texans with short, ultra-quick throws all the way back in week two. Change the picture…often and see if the Texans can't force Minshew Magic into a mistake that could change the tide of the game.
  1. Shots- Now, there are plenty of people reading this, at this time of year, in particular, that see the word shots and, well, it has a whole different connotation. The shots I'm talking about are the shot plays that Minshew likes in the midst of a game. On the sideline last week against the Raiders, he lamented a deep shot that he didn't take to Alec Pierce early in the game. He promised Pierce he would take that shot to him later in the game. Wouldn't you know it, he was right and it was the turning point of that win over Las Vegas. Minshew doesn't have the strongest arm in the NFL, but he will take those shots to challenge the Texans. More importantly, the Texans are 1-6 in games in which they give up more explosive pass plays to the opponent than they generate on offense. Those explosive SHOT plays have been a killer for the Texans defense this season, especially in the last half of the season.

Colts DEFENSE (in 2023 regular season)

Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 127.8 ypg (27th in the NFL)

Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 224.8 ypg (17th)

Total offense Allowed per game - 352.6 ypg (24th)

Turnovers generated - 24 (15 INT, 9 Fumble recoveries - Colts are +3 in TO margin in 2023)

Expected Colts starting defense for Week 18

DE - Kwity Paye

DT - DeForest Buckner

DT - Grover Stewart


LB - Zaire Franklin

LB - E.J. Speed

Nickel - Kenny Moore II


S - Rodney Thomas II

S - Nick Cross


Key Defensive Non-Starters


DE - Dayo Odeyingbo

DE - Tyquan Lewis


DT - Eric Johnson II


ST - Grant Stuard

Italics - Rookie

ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023

Keys to winning v. the Colts Defense

  1. Grove and Buck, Part II- Here's what I wrote heading into week two against the Colts.

The Texans interior MUST handle one of the best DL duos in the NFL - Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner. Those two have spent the last three years lighting up the Texans interior offensive linemen regularly. Strength. Size. Power. Quickness. Agility. Those two have those assets in spades. Stewart is often overshadowed, but I've seen him destroy any, and every single, rush plan the Texans have thrown at him. Buckner? Same result. So, if the Texans' interior can't effectively block that duo, then the LBs will run free BEHIND a duo let loose in the Texans backfield. Suffice to say, the Texans run game will end up in neutral, or worse, go in reverse if that happens.

Honestly, there's no bigger key to the game than this one right here. My overarching thought has not changed 16 weeks since seeing the Colts the first time. In fact, it might be even more important as the run game has started to evolve and C.J. Stroud is still just a little over three weeks from suffering a concussion against the Jets.

  1. A New Day-o- 2nd year DE Dayo Odeyingbo is not a household name throughout the NFL, especially so because he's listed as a backup. However, he's a scary force when he comes into the game. He has eight sacks on the season and he terrorized the New England Patriots with three of them in Germany. He was injured during the draft process in 2021 or he would've never made it to pick 54 that season. Long. Athletic. Versatile. The Colts already have two excellent edge guys so on third down, the long armed Odeyingbo moves inside and rushes against guards and centers. He's not THE focal point of the Colts defense but he's the most CHESS PIECE worthy defender on the Colts defense.
  1. Attack the Corners, again- In the first matchup back in September, C.J. Stroud showed ALL of what he could do against the Colts. He threw it 47 times for 384 yards and two touchdowns. Now, the Texans were behind for much of that game so he was trying to throw them back into the game and nearly did. He could do that earlier in the season, in part, because the Colts secondary, outside of Kenny Moore II, was a relatively inexperienced group and just couldn't withstand the Texans passing game that day. 16 weeks later, the Colts have not one, but two rookies at cornerback. JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones are super-talented and have faced their share of top receivers and QBs, but Stroud is a different cat than what they've seen lately. I mentioned last week that attacking the Titans' secondary was one major key to a win and Stroud and company did that. Suffice to say, it'll be key this week against a couple of youngsters at CB, in particular. Talented for sure, but still just 17 starts between them.

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