The Colts return to the field this weekend, after a much needed Bye week, although it'll still be without a few key players who we saw two weeks ago in Washington. Out for the season now is Dallas Clark, and already ruled out for Monday night are Austin Colle and Antonio Johnson. Add in that Joseph Addai will most likely also be out, and Peyton Manning has a significantly weaker arsenal of weapons. Sounds like the perfect time to play an important divisional home game, right?
Now, some have suggested this is the biggest game for the Colts in a decade. I'd make an easy argument that the 2 Super Bowls and 3 AFC Title games were easily more important, and many other games were much more important than Monday night. That's not to say it isn't important, because it clearly is. A loss by the Colts would leave them a game (plus a tiebreaker) behind the Texans, and at least 1 game behind the Titans, possibly 2. However, there's still plenty of weeks left in the season to make that back up, and for Gary Kubiak to screw something up.
In Week 1, the Texans destroyed the Colts D-Line and Linebackers to the tune of 231 Yards, mostly by 2nd year RB Arian Foster, on their way to a 34-24 victory in Houston. This was only the second Texans win against the Colts in 17 tries. Because the Colts were down pretty much the whole game, Manning decided to throw the ball 57 times and 433 yards, shredding a very weak Houston secondary.
A big difference you'll see is the return of Texan LB Brian Cushing, who was suspended in Week 1 for use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. He'll also be playing a new position this week, as he slides to the middle to take over for Demeco Ryans, who was placed on IR last week with a ruptured Achilles. There aren't any other significant injuries for the Texans, although WR Andre Johnson has been nursing an ankle injury for a few weeks now, but hasn't missed a game.
Both the Colts and Texans are coming off of Bye weeks this week, making it the second time this year the Colts will face an opponent a week after their Bye (Chiefs). They'll get a third next week when they take on the Eagles, who are off this weekend. The Colts are 7 - 1 since 2002 coming off their Bye week, while the Texans are 2 - 6. The Colts have played the Texans once after a Bye week. You remember the RosenChopper game, right? That was it.
Let's get to the stats and keys to the game:
Statistical Comparison of the Colts and Texans:
|Avg Start Pos||28.9||28||30.2||17||28.2||31||29.4||12|
|3 and Outs||2.38||4||4.32||11||1.51||1||3.07||22|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.500||2||0.735||22||0.689||7||0.788||19|
|Net Punts Yds/Game||40.71||10||43.28||31||38.45||20||39.98||23|
Statistical Keys to the Game:
- Two high powered offenses on Monday Night should make for great ratings, eh? Remember when all the talk was about how the Texans were building up their defense to stop Manning? They must have confused "defense" with "offense", as they've gotten quite good at that.
- Wow has the Texan defense been really, really bad this season. The first 4 stats all at 30th or worse, while the Colts are 1st in the league in 2 of them, and second in another. Look for Manning the throw the ball A LOT. Remember last season when he had 40 pass attempts in the first half against the Texans? He might get close to that again. The one stat the Texans are good at defensively is Yards/Carry, which I don't expect to change.
- Texan fans must be used to Red Zone scoring at this point, as their offense is tops in the NFL, and their defense is the worst in the NFL. Pretty much when either team gets in the Red Zone, expect Touchdowns. Holding the other team to a Field Goal will be a major win Monday Night.
- Both the Colts and Texans are top five on 3rd and 4th down. In the Colts four Wins this season, the defense has held their opponent to 15/67 on 3rd/4th down. In the two losses? 16/25. That's a very easy stat to track, and very telling for the 2010 Colts. Get them off the field on 3rd/4th down, the Colts win. If not, the Colts lose.
- It's nice to play a team that gets worse field position than the Colts. This shouldn't be a factor in the game.
Other Keys to the Game:
- How will the Colts try to replace the production of Dallas Clark? Assuming both Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez play, I expect a lot of 3 WR sets. I don't expect Jacob Tamme to line up off the line often, but with two weeks of practice maybe he's worked on a few plays where he can line up in the slot.
- Will Manning have enough time to throw without Addai picking up the blitz? It's no secret around here how awesome Joe is at pass protection, and that will be a huge loss if he can't go Monday night. Tony Romo is basically done for the season because his RB didn't pick up a blitzer, and he had a free shot at the QB. I trust Mike Hart more than Donald Brown, and I think the Colts do as well. Add in the beating Manning took in Week 1, and this will be very important. Watch for short throws/routes, as well as lots of shotgun.
- As strange as this sounds, as I like Matt Schaub and think he's a pretty good QB, the Colts have to force him to beat them. This includes selling out to stop Foster, as well as the offense jumping out to an early lead. If the Texans are running the ball consistently in the second half, things will not be good for the Colts.
Over the years, Manning has played many games over the years without all of his receivers and backs, and for the most part he's continued to win. However, this week will be a unique challenge, as I don't remember a game where he's played without a WR, TE, and multiple RBs. Especially for this week, losing Addai will hurt the Colts the most.
The Colts have almost been like a different team at home this year, as both games played inside Lucas Oil Stadium have been top 10 games in the NFL this season. Despite the injuries, and despite a very good Texan team coming into Indianapolis, I think the Colts defense will pick up the offense, using the crowd to their advantage and winning a very important Divisional game.
Colts 28, Texans 24