When the Colts play the Texans on Sunday afternoon from Lucas Oil Stadium, the two best players in the NFL 25 years old or younger will both be playing: the Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck and the Texans' defensive end J.J. Watt. Both players have been in the MVP discussion this year, and their teams face off on Sunday in a game that will go a long ways towards deciding the AFC South division - and in fact with a win the Colts would clinch the title.
Of course, the biggest obstacle to a Colts' win is J.J. Watt, who is once again having an incredible season. He has recorded 14.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, an interception which he returned 80 yards for a touchdown, 9 pass deflections, a blocked kick, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and three receiving touchdowns. In other words: he's great and quite arguably the best player in the NFL. In five career games versus the Colts, Watt has recorded 40 tackles, 7 sacks, a forced fumble, 8 pass deflections, a blocked kick, and a touchdown. The Colts know what a tough challenge he presents.
"I don't know if I've ever [seen a defensive lineman have such a routine impact on the game as Watt has]," head coach Chuck Pagano said on Wednesday. " We've seen obviously some great ones through the years, the Reggie White's, (Warren) Sapp, but this guy is a phenomenal, phenomenal football player. Best at his position right now and I'm not sure he's, it'd be hard to argue against some of the top quarterbacks right now, but this guy is impacting the game as much as anybody, especially at his position.
"I mean, he's catching touchdown passes now. They're lining him up in goal line and short-yardage situations. He looks like (Rob) Gronkowski out there right now running now. The catch he made from the fullback spot in the flat was phenomenal. Then what he does defensively, they move him all over the place. He's obviously very, very intelligent. He's got great instincts, a skill set that's second to none, twitched up like a corner. He's damn near unblockable, batting passes down, 14.5 sacks, tackles for loss. He does it all. He's a nightmare."
Pagano noted that one of the most difficult things about trying to defend Watt is his versatility, as the defensive end can and has lined up all over in order to present the best matchup for Houston. "In base, he'll line up as a five-technique," Pagano said. "He'll line up as a three-technique. In sub, he can be an edge rusher. They can put him inside over a guard, put him on a center in a zero-technique. They're just going to try to obviously accentuate his strengths and go after the opponent's weakness. He's all over the place, and it makes it very, very difficult from a game plan standpoint calling things because you've got to know where he's at at all times and do the very best that you can to make sure you don't leave him singled up as much as possible. It's easier said than done."
"He's just so explosive and his change of direction and his strength," Colts' offensive lineman Khaled Holmes said Wednesday. "He basically doesn't have any weaknesses, so that definitely stands out on tape and live." Another Colts' lineman, center A.Q. Shipley, echoed similar sentiments. "He's a good player," Shipley said. "There's a reason people talk about him. There's no doubt about it, he does a heck of a job on offense and defense. More so than anything, that team feeds off of him." Andrew Luck, who has been sacked by Watt six times in his career, is aware of how good the Texans' defensive end is as well. "Definitely a bunch of respect for how he plays the game of football and what he does," Luck noted. "He certainly has that ability to change a game in one play, which not many guys have."
A lot of talk recently has been about whether or not J.J. Watt should win the MVP award. While the consensus seems to be that it's Aaron Rodgers' award to lose, Chuck Pagano was asked whether he would vote for J.J. Watt for MVP if he had a vote. "Yeah," Pagano answered, before adding that, "I just hope we don't do enough to make him the MVP." If the Colts are successful at doing that, they've got a very good chance of wrapping up a second straight division title on Sunday.