With a winless preseason in the books (first since 2005) we finally have the opener in sight. The Colts open their season in just 9 days, 1pm eastern time next Sunday, at Houston. Even before TC opened everyone had one eye trained on the start of the real season, and one matchup has had me drooling for months now.
Dallas Clark vs Whatever the Texans throw at him
Last year Clark shredded the Texans D for 183 yards and a TD on 23 receptions in the two divisional matchups. Week 8 Clark was a reality check for DROY to be Brian Cushing. The Texans manned Cushing up on Clark with the (predictable) result of a career high 14 receptions and Clark's 2nd of his two 100 yard games last season. The Texans D didn't fare much better Week 12 as Clark caught 9 for 63 with a TD.
Clark's 100 reception, 1,106 yard, 10 TD, 2009 season was impressive, but prorating his performance against the Texans out to a full 16 games gives a 184 reception, 1,464 yard, 8 TD season monster of a year.
...and week 1 the Texans will be without one of the key players used to "contain" Clark last year. Brian Cushing's PED suspension will have him sidelined for the Colts' and Texans' first matchup. Houston's 1st rounder Kareem Jackson rose through their thin secondary to a starting spot, so will probably be needed on the outside against the Colts deep WR corps leaving WLB Zach Diles, backup LB Xavier Adibi, or one of the Texans young, inexperienced and lightly regarded slot corners to face Clark if the Texans want to keep the cover-2 over the top that's been a fixture of Ds facing Peyton Manning since 2006.
Also working in the Colts favor is the addition of Brody Eldridge. In previous years the most effective way to take Clark out of the receiving game was to get so much pressure that the Colts hold Clark in to block (see the Ravens game last year). With a fantastic in-line blocker on the roster and seeing 1st team snaps in preseason the Colts have another option for helping an overwhelmed tackle that keeps Clark out running patterns.
A more seasoned Cushing seemed by far the Texans best option to slow Clark, but without him it seems quite likely he'll rack up another big game on Houston.