The Texans in Week 15 face a Colts squad that is puzzling. Indianapolis is 8-5 in 2013, and has already clinched the AFC South. But in many team statistical categories, they haven't been as good as their opponents. For example: they've been outscored (316 to 313), gained less yards on offense (4,391 to 4,837) and lost the average time of possession battle (31:33 to 28:27) against their opponents.
Yet they're still three games above .500.
If Houston is to pull of the first road victory against the Colts in franchise history, the following things need to happen.
Win the turnover battle**: One key reason Indianapolis has a winning record despite some of the aforementioned statistical deficiencies is their ability to force turnovers. They've recovered four fumbles and picked off nine passes, while opponents have turned the ball over 19 times. The plus-6 turnover ratio has them tied for 9th in the NFL in that category.
Meanwhile, the Texans are next to last in turnover ratio at -14.
In the 11 previous matchups at Indianapolis, the Texans have turned the ball over 22 times. The Colts committed just 11 turnovers.
Limit the big play: The last time these two squads met, Andrew Luck found T.Y. Hillton for a trio of
touchdown passes in the second half. One of those was a 58-yarder that pulled the Colts to within 24-19 with 9:46 left in the game.
Last season at Indianapolis in Week 17, the Colts utilized a pair of daggers in a Deji Karim 101-yard kickoff return for a score, and a Hilton 70-yard scoring reception to put the Texans away, 28-16.
The Texans defense must keep Luck and company in check and not allow the game-breaking play.
Cut out Penalties: At Jacksonville in Week 14, Houston committed 14 penalties in the loss to the
Jaguars. To remedy the problem, interim head coach Wade Phillips brought in officials during practice to throw flags when needed.
"We told them what we expected," Phillips said. "We know some of the problems. One of them is too many penalties, so we addressed the problem. I think it's a logical thing to do."
The players agreed.
"Everyone's trying to practice on technique and trying to be focused on not committing those penalties," left tackle Duane Brown said. "I think having a ref out there, just the presence alone can kind of keep that in the back of your mind even a little bit more than normal."
The Colts and Texans this season are polar opposites in the penalty category. Indianapolis has committed just 57 for a league-low 499 yards. The Texans have been flagged 89 times for 912 yards.
Hold on late: Luck's calling-card is his ability to lead his team to comeback wins. He did it at Reliant Stadium in Week 9, helping the Colts overcome a 24-6 third quarter deficit. The Texans can't allow any more of his magic if they're to leave Lucas Oil Stadium victorious.
"We need to get better at finishing," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "That's been biting us in butt for I don't know how many weeks. I can't even count anymore."