One of the biggest questions for the Indianapolis Colts leading up to Sunday's game against the Houston Texans will be who will start at quarterback. Andrew Luck hopes to return to practice this week, but his return to the playing field on Sunday still seems like a stretch. Matt Hasselbeck is dealing with a rib injury and had his left arm in a sling, but head coach Chuck Pagano anticipates him being available for the team on Sunday. If neither Luck nor Hasselbeck can play, however, it would be Charlie Whitehurst getting the start in the most important game of the season.
The Texans will also likely be turning to a backup quarterback for Sunday. Houston head coach Bill O'Brien said on Monday that starter Brian Hoyer suffered a concussion and is "doubtful" for the game. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported that the Texans are preparing T.J. Yates to start against Indy.
Yates has played in three games this year (one start) and has completed 22 of 47 passes (46.8%) for 302 yards (6.43 yards per attempt), three touchdowns, and no interceptions for a passer rating of 89.1. In his five-year career so far (four with the Texans and one with the Falcons), Yates has played in 17 games (starting six) and has completed 126 of 217 passes (58.1%) for 1,466 yards (6.8 yards per attempt), six touchdowns, and seven picks for a 74.4 passer rating. He has made one start against the Colts - the 2011 game in Indianapolis in which Reggie Wayne caught the game-winning score to keep the Texans winless in Indy (Yates on the day completed 13 of 16 passes for 132 yards).
Losing Brian Hoyer hurts the Texans even though they have a solid backup, as Hoyer has had a nice season in Houston - completing 60.5% of his passes for 2,357 yards (7.16 yards per attempt), 18 touchdowns and six interceptions for a 93.0 passer rating. Earlier this season, Hoyer didn't get the start against the Colts but entered the game midway through, helping to lead Houston back. Though the Texans didn't win that game, Hoyer completed 24 of 31 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns with a pick.
The concussion is Hoyer's second of the season, and in addition he is also dealing with a strained neck and a wrist injury. Though he is "doubtful" for the game, it seems almost certain that he won't be able to play, leaving T.J. Yates to start against the Colts. Could it be T.J. Yates vs. Charlie Whitehurst in the most important game of the season for both teams? That remains a real possibility, depending on the status of Matt Hasselbeck.