Come Sunday afternoon, it will have been 217 days since the last time we saw Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, and the rest of the Colts take the field in Super Bowl XLIV, falling to the New Orleans Saints 31-17. Since early February, we've seen the Colts stay away from Free Agents, other than their own (big shock), draft the next generation of defensive stars, conduct OTAs, Training Camp, the Preseason, and now finally, real football. Think it has been long for us? Think how long it must have felt for the players...
In the Colts Season Opener, they travel to Houston to take on their division rival the Texans. This is the first time the Colts and Texans will meet on Opening Weekend, and the first time since 2006 the Colts will open on the road. The Colts will also be looking to go 16-1 all time against the Texans.
As most of you know, I'm the stats guy around here. With it being Week 1, however, we don't have a whole lot to look at, other than 2009 numbers. While it isn't ideal, it's better than nothing. Let's take a look at how the teams compared from the 2009 regular season:
|Avg Start Pos||28.4||30||29.1||10||30.4||16||28.5||4|
|3 and Outs||2.99||5||3.20||31||3.36||9||4.07||10|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.576||2||0.835||14||0.836||21||0.803||15|
|Net Punts Yds/Game||39.34||10||41.39||30||39.75||8||38.86||15|
Statistical Matchups to keep an eye on (numbers above are adjusted for schedule):
- Defensively, both teams were almost identical in terms of Drive Success Rate (DSR), which means look for the Colts, who were significantly better than the Texans offensively in DSR, to keep drives alive and move the football. Look for long, sustained drives from both team as well, as both offenses are good in Yards / Drive.
- The Colts passing offense should have success throwing the ball, as the Texans defense isn't very good in Adjusted Net Passing Yards / Attempt. Manning has feasted on them before, and expect for the same Sunday.
- The biggest discrepancy, and the most important stat for Sunday, will be Red Zone Efficiency. The Colts were best in the league on offense last season, and the Texans were the 3rd worst defense, which should mean a huge advantage for the Colts. However, in their two matchups last season, the Colts were only 61.3% and 64.8%, far below their season average. For the Colts to win Sunday, they must improve back to their season average.
- There weren't may team worse than the Colts in terms of Yards / Carry, but the Texans were one of them. With the Colts Offensive Line in flux, it could be an adventure running the ball. The Texans will be featuring second year RB Arian Foster, who they are hoping is an improvement over their Running-Back-By-Committee in 2009. I don't think this will be a big factor, but something to watch.
- I agree with shake n bake that the matchup I'm most looking forward to is Dallas Clark against whoever the Texans throw out there to try and stop him. Clark ate them alive last season, so look for them to pay more attention to Clark throughout the game.
- The next biggest matchup will be Mario Williams vs. Charlie Johnson (?), just as shake n bake pointed out as well. If Johnson doesn't play, or isn't 100%, look for Brody Eldridge or Jacob Tamme to be playing a lot, helping out with Williams. Also expect more screens and quick slants to minimize the amount of time Manning actually has the ball in his hands.
- Defensively for the Colts, Jerraud Powers vs. Andre Johnson. I fully expect Powers will have Safety help over the top for the majority of snaps, but look for Johnson to have 12-15 targets throughout the game, especially in the 8-12 yard range (the soft part of the Cover 2).
Clint Session has come up huge in previous matchups with the Texans, so look for him to create havoc out there. Also, #21 is back. Here's hoping it is his first of 16 games this season.
On paper, the Texans look to be the lead contender to supplant the Colts as Division Champions, and have made significant improvements each of the past few seasons. They have also played the Colts really well recently, even though they have been on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Many have suggested Week 1 could make or break the Texans season, so they should be ready to go. The last 2 games played in Houston, the Colts have come back from 17 points down to win, so even if the Texans jump out quick, the Colts won't panic. I expect a high-scoring, back and forth game (no 17 point leads), with Peyton Manning having the ball at the end, leading the Colts on a game-winning drive.
Colts 34, Texans 31