NFL Preview - Indianapolis (5-2) at Houston (2-5)|
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - If the Houston Texans ultimately cede control of the
AFC's South Division to Indianapolis this season -- after winning it the last
two years -- expect bad luck and south Texas product Andrew Luck to be among
the named culprits.
Linebacker and defensive leader Brian Cushing became the latest starter to be
gnawed by the injury bug two weeks ago at Kansas City, when he suffered a
fractured fibula and a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee,
ending his season prematurely for the second straight year.
Others, including running back Arian Foster and quarterback Matt Schaub have
also been impacted on some level by dents and dings, and Schaub's absence for
one game with an ankle problem has been compounded by ineffectiveness.
Schaub will remain a healthy non-participant this week against the Colts while
Case Keenum -- who started the loss to the Chiefs by necessity -- remains the
No. 1 man by design.
The 25-year-old product of the University of Houston threw a touchdown pass
and was 15-of-25 for 271 yards in the 17-16 loss to Kansas City, in which the
Texans compiled 294 total yards. In the six prior games, Schaub, a veteran of
85 starts over seven seasons with Houston, compiled a 78.8 passer rating.
He threw eight touchdowns and nine interceptions in those six games, with four
of the INTs coming back for opposition scores.
"I've got to make decisions I think are best for the football team right now,"
embattled Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "The decision I made was based on
what I saw take place (against Kansas City) with Case and him taking advantage
of an opportunity. I want to see him move forward."
Among Keenum's would-be weapons, Foster is listed as questionable with a
hamstring injury and another running back, Ben Tate, is questionable with a
Houston, which has scored barely 12 points per game since a 2-0 start, hasn't
lost six straight since 2005.
"We had to adjust to that last year," Kubiak said. "We'll have to do that
again. It's going to call for some other guys to be vocal. Unfortunately,
we've been down this road before and some guys will have to step up."
The Colts, who enter the game with a three-game lead over the Texans in the
South, encountered some injuries of their own before the bye week as well.
Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne was lost for the season with a torn ACL in
his right knee, ending a consecutive games streak that stretched back to 2001
during the early days of Peyton Manning.
Ironically, Wayne was hurt in Manning's return to Indianapolis with the then-
unbeaten Denver Broncos, whom the Colts beat, 39-33.
Stepping into his shoes are fellow wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y.
Hilton, along with tight end Coby Fleener.
Heyward-Bey and Fleener each caught TD throws from Andrew Luck against the
Luck, the son of ex-Houston Oiler and current West Virginia athletic director
Oliver Luck, was actually born in the nation's capital but he spent his
formative years in Houston where he began his football journey at Stratford
High School before moving on to Stanford University and eventually becoming
the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft by the Colts.
Luck will face a Texans defense that's given up a bloated 27.7 points per
game, but is the league's best in total defense -- allowing just 267.7 yards
per game, 145.6 through the air. He was sacked six times in two games against
the Texans in 2012, which the teams split.
"They've got game-wreckers all over the place," Indianapolis coach Chuck
Pagano said. "They've got a front seven that is as good as anybody in
football. They've got probably the best defensive player in football in J.J.
Linebacker Robert Mathis, who's also faced the vintage Houston teams, agreed.
"To be the champ, you got to beat the champ. (Houston is) the champ," he said.
"We've just got to go down there and handle our business. I've been a part of
some division championship teams. They're focused and they want it, it's just
a matter of taking care of business.
"We're not looking at their record, because they are the two-time AFC South
champions and we respect them as such."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Turn Red to Green.
The Colts have found great success upon reaching the red zone this season and
are second-best in the league when it comes to average points per trip. The
problem is, they're just the 19th-best team in the league when it comes to
reaching that Valhalla territory. The more Houston can force 3s instead of 7s,
the better chance it has.
Keenum looked uncomfortable when the Chiefs got to him or near him on passing
downs. He was able to break containment and create plays on occasion, but when
he was pressured and kept in the pocket, he struggled. If the Colts are
successful in slowing the Texans' battered run game, they could make things
quite difficult for the young passer.
To paraphrase Dennis Green, if the Colts are who they say they are, they'll
show it here.
Houston has home field and a lot of players who can still produce, but
injuries and ineffectiveness have left a shell where a division champion once
Sports Network predicted outcome: Colts 29, Texans 19
11/01 09:29:17 ET