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2011 NFL Week Sixteen Preview: Indianapolis Colts Vs. Houston Texans

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The Colts don't get much time to celebrate their first win of the season, as they have to turn right around and face one of the best teams in football on a short week, as the Texans roll into Indianapolis for Thursday night football. The Texans wrapped up the AFC South over a week ago, but are still playing for a potential first-round bye in the playoffs, so they won't be resting any starters.

However, the injuries have piled up for Houston, so they'll be a few new faces since the Week 1 34-7 drubbing the Texans put on the Colts. Indianapolis native, and Colts fan growing up T.J. Yates, will start his fourth game Thursday, but will be coming off his first loss, 28-13 to the Panthers last Sunday. He finally looked like a rookie QB after leading the Texans to two come from behind wins. Also MIA will be Andre Johnson and Mario Williams, who have been gone for a few months now, so they've grown accustomed to playing without those guys. We will get to see Arian Foster, however, who did not play in the first meeting.

Houston has only beaten the Colts three times in their history, and never on the road, as the Colts are a perfect 9-0 in Indianapolis against the Texans. I'm going to assume this will be the first time however that the Colts will be home underdogs in this series. The Colts also haven't lost a Thursday night game since the opening week of the 2004 season, where the Colts lost to the Patriots 27-24, a span of 6 games, all of which saw the Colts score at least 30 points. This will be Houston's third Thursday night game in their history, and they are 1-1, losing last season in Philadelphia, and beating the Broncos back in 2007.

Let's get to the numbers and see just how much of a chance the Colts have of winning...

Adjusted Statistical Comparison between Colts and Texans:

Statistic Colts Texans
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 61.4% 29 73.6% 30 70.4% 13 63.9% 6
ANPY/A 4.176 27 6.955 30 6.884 6 4.104 1
Turnovers 2.04 25 1.30 29 1.62 12 1.95 9
Yds/Drive 23.21 29 31.46 24 31.96 9 23.34 2
ToP/Drive 2:15.0 32 3:02.0 31 2:56.0 6 2:25.0 2
Yds/Play 4.705 25 5.355 23 5.498 11 4.534 2
First Downs/Drive 1.26 32 1.89 27 1.74 12 1.41 5
3rd/4th Down 34.1% 26 47.4% 32 42.9% 8 35.6% 10
Avg Start Pos 26.5 32 33.5 30 33.2 4 31.0 17
3 and Outs 5.25 30 3.33 24 3.63 11 4.82 6
RZ Eff 54.2% 30 77.4% 30 58.7% 28 73.0% 28
Plays/Drive 4.986 31 5.835 26 5.782 10 5.097 4
Penalty Yds / Play 0.541 1 0.687 29 0.690 7 0.695 28
RB Success 43.8% 20 48.6% 25 46.3% 14 44.1% 13
Yds/Carry 4.27 11 3.96 13 4.35 10 4.03 16
Net Punts Yds/Game 38.52 14 40.59 29 37.53 20 39.20 23
Overall 32 32 9 4

Keys to the game:

  • The first stat that jumps out to me is Red Zone Efficiency, as the Texans are barely better than the Colts, and we all know how bad that's been this season. For the Colts to have a chance, they'll have to force field goals, just like they did last week against the Titans. If the Texans are scoring TDs when they get in deep, it'll be game over.
  • The Texans move the ball slightly better than the average NFL team, so the Colts defense will have their work cut out for them getting the Texans off the field. They really struggled moving the ball last week against the Panthers, so hopefully we see a few of those successful things Carolina did last week.
  • The Turnover numbers aren't great for the Texans, but they are also slightly above average, so getting a turnover or two isn't completely out of the question for the Colts. Foster has fumbled each of the past two weeks, so the Colts should be looking to rip the ball away from him, much to the chagrin of my fantasy team trying to win a championship.
  • Speaking of Foster, we'll see if the Colts defense can do to him what they did to Chris Johnson last week. The Texans are much better, overall, running the football, so I expect them to hammer away, especially with how poor Yates threw the ball last week. I'd be shocked if they don't have over 30 carries Thursday night.
  • On the flip side, the Texans defense has done a complete 180 from a year ago, ranking as one of the best defenses in the NFL this year after being horrendous last season. Much of the credit should go to new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, but he won't be at the game after having a medical procedure done a week ago, and he's still recovering. They played their worst defensive game last week, so there's hope that the Colts could have some success.
  • Once again, the Colts absolutely must commit to running the football and minimizing the number of throws by Dan Orlovsky. It worked against the Titans, and the Texans aren't world-beaters at stopping the run. The Colts need to be able to move the ball by running it to have a chance.
  • The Panthers had a lot of success on Third/Fourth down last week against this defense, and the Colts will have to do the same if they are to stay in the game. I don't really expect it to happen, but it must for the Colts to win.

Now that the Colts have actually won a game, I feel more comfortable about picking them to win another. It won't be this week, however. Unfortunately the Texans laid their proverbial egg last week, and should be focused on winning their final two games, hoping for a first round bye. The Colts haven't shown any consistency this season, so saying they'll put up another performance like they did a week ago seems like a stretch at this point. The home crowd will keep them in it longer than they probably should, but the Texans are just too good to lose to this Colts team, no matter their history of doing exactly that.

Texans 23, Colts 14