This Sunday the Colts and the Texans play the first of two match ups between the division rivals who have combined for 9 of the last 10 AFC South division championships. The Texans won it for the second straight year last season, but the Colts are right back in the division race once again this year and hold a two game lead over the second place team, the Titans. On Sunday Night Football on NBC this Sunday night, the Colts and Texans meet for the first time this year in a game that is big for both teams. As mentioned already, it will be broadcast nationally on NBC with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth doing the game and it will be broadcast nationally on the radio on Westwood One Sports by Kevin Kugler and James Lofton. Locally, Bob Lamey and Jim Sorgi will do the game on the radio on WFNI and WHLK. Here's your primer getting you ready for Sunday's game.
What Happened Last Week?
This one is pretty simple: neither team won and neither team lost. The Colts and the Texans both had their bye week last week. Coming into the bye week, the Colts beat the Broncos on Sunday Night Football and the Texans lost to the Chiefs in Case Keenum's first career start. The Texans have had an awful season so far but will still be a very tough test for the Colts, who will be playing their first game without Reggie Wayne in over a decade.
Colts vs. Texans: A Rivalry
The Colts lead the all-time series 18-4, but have split the past six contests with each team winning three. The Colts are 7-4 in Houston (and 11-0 at home). The Colts absolutely dominated the division during the Peyton Manning era, but after that ended the Texans capitalized and have won the last two division titles. Last year, the Colts unexpectedly made it interesting and this year they have 2 game lead for first place and a 3 game lead over the Texans. Last season, the Colts and the Texans split with each team winning 1 contest - and in fact, the totals in the two games combined for the teams evened it out to a score of 45-45. In those two games, quarterback Andrew Luck was 27 of 55 (49.1%) for 377 yards (6.85 yards per attempt), 4 touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 95.8. The two teams met in the regular season finale last year in the game where Colts head coach Chuck Pagano made his return and the Colts won the game in very impressive fashion, 28-16. [One additional note about the series history: the two teams have never played a game without Reggie Wayne on the field, so this Sunday will mark the first time that has happened.]
A Game with Big AFC South Implications
As I've already mentioned a few times, the Colts have a 2 game lead in the AFC South and the Texans are 3 games behind. With a record of 2-5 midway through the season, the Texans really need to win this game at home against the Colts to keep their playoff hopes alive. If they don't, it essentially ends their chances. Also, with a win the Colts extend their division lead and take a huge step towards the division title. Despite the Texans's dismal season so far this year, this should be a close game because of what is at stake for the Texans and also for the Colts.
No Reggie Wayne:
For the first time since December 27, 1998 the Colts will play a game without either Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne, as Wayne is out for the season with a torn ACL. For those counting, that is 251 games in a row (including playoffs) that the Colts have had either Marvin or Reggie on the field for. That's impressive. The Colts will really miss the loss of Wayne, but we won't know just how much until we see them on the field Sunday. This will also be the first game ever between the Colts and the Texans that Reggie Wayne will not play in. He had a streak of 189 games played in a row that will officially be snapped on Sunday, and that total ranks third all time in NFL history for a receiver, with only Tim Brown (199) and Harold Jackson (190) playing in more consecutive games.
Josh Gordy, CB (groin)
Delano Howell, S (neck)
Greg Toler, CB (groin)
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR (hamstring) *
Cam Johnson, OLB (knee)
Samson Satele, C (knee)
Bjoern Werner, OLB (foot)
* Chuck Pagano said that even though DHB was held out of practice Friday and is listed as questionable, he expects the WR to play.
This one won't be easy. The Texans have become a bit of a laughing stock around the league recently, but they're still not to be taken lightly at all. The defense is still very talented and actually rank first in the league in yards per game allowed, but they are 27th in points per game allowed (which, granted, includes a number of pick-6s but it still shows that they aren't the league's "best" defense). J.J. Watt is still great and quarterback Case Keenum, who made his first career start at Kanas City two weeks ago, completed 15 of 25 passes (60%) for 271 yards (10.84 yards per attempt) with a touchdown and no picks for a passer rating of 110.6. The Colts need to get pressure on him early and disrupt him. This game won't be easy by any means and I expect it to be a low-scoring, tough game, but I think the Colts leave Houston with a victory. Colts 20, Texans 17