The brilliance of Philip Rivers is a big test for the Texans this Sunday.
The quarterback and the Colts are at NRG Stadium for a Noon CT kickoff with Houston. He's completed 67.3 percent of his passes this season for 2,978 yards, with 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. His brains are what defensive end J.J. Watt said set the 17-year veteran apart.
"He's one of the smartest players I've ever played against," Watt said Wednesday. "He can call out your blitzes. He can call out your defensive schemes. He can tell guys they're misaligned on your defense. He's a brilliant player who does an insane amount of film study, who works extremely hard to master his craft and he's obviously done it at a high level for a long time. It's a great challenge for us and I'm looking forward to it."
Rivers is a challenge enough, but he'll be an even bigger one for Watt and the defense this Sunday. They're without cornerback Bradley Roby, who is on the suspended list.
"He knows exactly where he needs to go with the ball and he's pretty accurate on those throws where he can throw it away from the defender and their guys are able to catch it," interim head coach Romeo Crennel said. "It's going to be tougher, but we've got tough guys on this team and we've got guys who can bow up and play, so we're going to play Sunday."
It's the second time in as many seasons the Texans will play against Rivers, but the circumstances are drastically different this year. In 2019, the Texans triumphed in Los Angeles against Rivers and the Chargers. This year, they host the Colts in Houston. Plus, Watt described another difference he's seen from Rivers this season.
"He's getting the ball out of his hands extremely fast," Watt said. "He knows exactly where his guys are. He knows how to get it out of his hands when he's got pressure. Obviously, they have schemes and setups where he can get the ball out of his hands fast. He's done a great job of that. That's what makes it so difficult to get sacks on him."
Colts head coach Frank Reich pointed to Rivers' brilliance as well, but also described another reason he's helped guide Indianapolis to a 7-4 record.
"We're good up front," Reich said. "We have a very good offensive line. We haven't run the ball at the same level that we have the last two years, but we've run it well enough and our protection has continued to be top notch in the league. That always helps a quarterback."
This will be the third time in Rivers' career he'll face the Texans in Houston.