The Colts take the road to play a division rival on a short week in a battle for first place in the AFC South. As if that wasn't enough, they're going to be going up against the league's best defensive player and arguably the league's MVP through the first five weeks of the season, J.J. Watt.
So far this season, Watt has 19 tackles, 2 sacks, a blocked kick, an interception (that he returned 80 yards for a touchdown), 3 pass deflections, and a one-yard receiving touchdown - and that's with teams keying in on him, and it's not counting all of his pressures. In his 53 career NFL games so far, he has recorded 236 tackles, 38.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries, a pick, 4 blocked kicks, and 30 pass deflections. That's impressive.
He has terrorized the Colts in six career games against them as well, recording 33 tackles, 5 sacks, a forced fumble, a blocked kick, and five pass deflections. He has sacked Andrew Luck 4 times - though only once in two games last year. Whether or not he is getting sacks, however, he is getting pressure and opening things up for the rest of the defense. He's an incredible player who presents an incredible challenge for the Colts this Thursday night.
"He's relentless," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said earlier today of Watt. "He's got size. He's got length. He's got a motor. He knows the game inside and out. He's got ‘twitch,' you've heard that word before. He's relentless. He's great against the run. Whether he's playing you straight up or on the move, he's extremely difficult to block. It doesn't matter whether you put a tight end over there, put a back, help, chip help, slide the line; you've got to do whatever you have to do to try to take care of this guy, but he still finds a way. They do a great job and Romeo (Crennel) does a great job with the defense of moving him around and putting him in position to make plays. He's a high energy guy with a ton of talent. He's long, and lengthy, and twitchy, and fast and competitive. He's a freak."
Pagano raved quite a bit about Watt and what a good player he is, saying that "he earns every penny he makes" and that "he plays the game the way it's supposed to be played." He also talked about the challenge that Watt presents the Colts. "We could have 22 in there, 12 offensive linemen and I'd be scared; if they let us play with that many, I'm saying, and they're not going to," Pagano said. "It doesn't matter who you have in there, that guy is as good as they get. Obviously he's playing at a very high level, AFC Defensive Player of the Month the first month of the season. You just turn the tape on, he's a nightmare and you've got to have a plan for him. Sometimes that plan doesn't work."
Pagano did not that, "not one guy makes a defense, makes a team," and that the Colts have 11 guys on the field to be aware of on every snap, but it's clear that the focus is on Watt, and for good reason.
"You do have to keep an eye on where 99 is," quarterback Andrew Luck agreed. "He's a stud, one of the best, if not the best, defensive players in the league. He disrupts a lot of things. We're definitely conscious of where he is."
What makes Watt so good? "He's got a great motor, great athleticism," Luck said. "He makes the big plays. You see that interception return. He makes the tough grimy plays, and he's always going hard. It's always a challenge to play against him, but it's also what makes it fun, to go up against great players and a great defense.
"You can't discount the rest of the Texans' D. Those guys are studs. They've shown it from what's on film this year. They're flying around and doing a great job."
The Colts have a huge challenge to face on Thursday night trying to block J.J. Watt, one of the league's best players. Luckily for the Colts, they also happen to have one of the league's best in quarterback Andrew Luck. The Texans also know what a challenge they're in for on Thursday.
"They're a good football team," J.J. Watt said of the Colts on a conference call with Indy media today. "Obviously Andrew Luck is a heck of a football player. They do a good job, have a few good receivers and the running backs can run the ball well behind that offensive line. I think they do a good job of playing within the system. Then obviously they have a quarterback who can do multiple things very well."
While Thursday Night Football hasn't been great yet this year, this Thursday's game has everything you want - a very meaningful division matchup for first place in a game that features the league's leading passer against the league's best defender. As Terrell Owens would say, get your popcorn ready.