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2015 NFL Week 5 Preview: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

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Usually it's beneficial to have the short week early in the season, but a string of injuries, including Andrew Luck, has their annual Thursday night game looking shaky. Can they put a stranglehold on the division by beating the Texans in Houston?

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Thanks to the money-grabbing NFL league office, every team gets the joy of playing two football games within 5 days, and this week it's the Colts turn, traveling to Houston to take on the Texans. It'll be the Colts third straight division game, and they'll be looking for their 16th straight victory in the AFC South, which would set an NFL record for most consecutive divisional wins. A win would also put them two games up on the Texans, putting them in the driver's seat for the division championship.

The Texans come into Thursday night wounded from a game in Atlanta, a 48-21 drubbing by the Falcons, and it was even worse than the final score indicates: it was 42-0 at one point. They're 1-3 on the season, with their lone victory coming against the Buccaneers in Week 3. They've flipped their QB from Brian Hoyer to Ryan Mallett back to Hoyer mid-game last week, and Mallett will start his fourth straight game Thursday night. It'll be the 4th straight game against the Texans where they'll see a different QB (Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tom Savage), so the carousel that is the Houston signal caller has been going on for a while now.

Returning last week for the Texans was noted Colts killer Arian Foster, coming back from a groin injury that kept him out of the first three weeks of the season. I'm sure we're going to see a heavy, heavy dose of Foster to keep the pressure off their QBs. Another Texan will be playing his first game against the Colts, 2014 1st overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. It's always been a chore to keep track of J.J. Watt, but now the Colts will see his running mate on the other side of the line. Other injuries for the Texans include WRs Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington, so again this tells me Foster might have 80 carries.

Everyone is obviously aware of the Andrew Luck situation, who didn't play last week, all signs point to him playing this week, but the Colts again signed Josh Johnson to collect nearly $44,000 to take a 36 hour trip to Houston, so who knows exactly what will happen. I'm still guessing Luck plays, but until he takes the field, I'm believing nothing coming from the Colts brass. The Colts will also be without Jerrell Freeman (we'll see Sio Moore I'm assuming), Tyler Varga, and Bjoern Werner. Two other pretty key guys are questionable in Vontae Davis and Henry Anderson, and it looks like Dwayne Allen will make his return and Greg Toler will make his season debut, just in time to triple team DeAndre Hopkins.

Playing on the road on a Thursday night has become a Colts tradition over the years, as this will be the 13th game the Colts have played on a Thursday, and the 11th on the road since 2001, and one of those home games was the opening game of the 2007 season when they smoked the Saints after winning the Super Bowl. Now, the Colts have only lose once in those games (Week 1 2004 in NE), but it's still a little ridiculous the Colts have been forced way more than any other team to go on the road. For instance, the Rams haven't played a Thursday road game since 1998! Yes it's only been 4 home games (5 this season), but that's something the schedule makers should be advised of by the Colts this offseason.

How do these two teams compare to each other? Let's take a look and see where the advantages lie.

Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Texans:

Statistic Colts Texans
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 73.7% 9 66.2% 9 67.7% 22 66.1% 8
ANPY/A 5.147 22 6.976 26 4.366 27 6.465 22
Turnovers 2.48 31 0.87 30 2.05 26 0.91 28
Yds/Drive 31.35 9 34.17 29 26.17 27 26.46 8
ToP/Drive 2:41.0 15 2:49.0 21 2:12.0 31 2:30.0 9
Yds/Play 5.497 10 5.721 26 4.809 28 5.241 17
Orange Zone Eff 60.6% 8 49.8% 13 52.3% 21 54.6% 18
First Downs/Drive 1.85 7 1.76 15 1.54 24 1.51 8
3rd/4th Down 50.3% 1 32.9% 8 33.7% 29 29.6% 4
Avg Start Pos 26.3 30 31.4 26 25.5 32 32.8 30
3 and Outs 3.65 16 2.65 29 4.76 31 4.10 7
RZ Eff 72.6% 10 71.2% 23 61.6% 22 62.4% 13
Plays/Drive 5.870 8 5.842 21 5.504 18 5.015 3
Penalty Yds / Play 0.817 13 1.035 5 0.630 3 0.882 12
RB Success 45.2% 13 41.6% 12 41.5% 24 35.7% 2
Yds/Carry 4.29 10 4.23 22 4.05 23 3.90 8
Overall 10 25 31 11

Keys to the Game:

  • We've hammered the Colts for the Turnover issues, and while the QB didn't turn the ball over last week (something Luck should do every once in a while), the Colts still lost two fumbles, one of which was inside the 3 yard line, costing them a TD and nearly the game. The Texans Defense ranks 28th in forcing turnovers, which was right around where the Jaguars are at. NO TURNOVERS!
  • The Colts will have to win the game through the air, as the Texans rank 2nd in RB Success Rate, but just 22nd on Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt. Obviously Luck playing will make this a little easier to do, but either way I wouldn't expect a big day from the Colts running game.
  • The Texans Defense is pretty good in a majority of our Drive Stats, ranking in the top 10 in most of them, and right around the same ranks as the Colts. The Colts have been streaky in their drives this year, going long stretches without a first down, then having three drives where they can't be stopped. Consistently moving the ball will mean very good things for the Colts, beating one of the Texans strengths.
  • The best matchup will be on 3rd/4th Down, where the Colts Offense leads the NFL and the Texans rank 4th on Defense. I could see this one area deciding the game. Getting to 3rd and manageable should be the Colts priority, but this will be one of the most important aspects of the game.
  • Both teams struggle with Field Position, and when that was the case last week with the Colts, they had a pretty good field position game. Time to do the same thing again.
  • These Texans Offense really has been abysmal so far this season, yeesh. I'm looking for a redeeming stat, but it just isn't there. Their one really good area is not being penalized, which was an area that really helped the Colts last week in their win over Jacksonville. Wouldn't count on those this week.
  • The Colts Defense has also been pretty good on 3rd/4th Down, so that's the one advantage I see when the Texans have the ball, since the Colts Defense isn't all that much better, numbers wise, than the Texans. An area to watch as well.

Assuming Andrew Luck plays, this looks like a game the Colts should win. They'll have to limit the number of hits he takes, which means (hopefully) more short throws and quick decisions, lessening the chance of a big hit and hurting the shoulder any more. It's going to be tough running the ball, so I think this game stays close throughout. I'm sure we'll see a couple Turnovers, because we can't fool ourselves that they're trying to fix that problem. Like most close games, the Colts just find a way to win in the end, but just barely.

Colts 21, Texans 20