The Indianapolis Colts face their biggest game of the season this Sunday against the Houston Texans on Sunday, and they'll get some help back in the form of injured players returning to the lineup. Head coach Chuck Pagano said this morning that quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, left tackle Anthony Castonzo, and inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson are all probable. Pagano also listed wide receiver Donte Moncrief and cornerback Greg Toler as questionable while ruling safety Colt Anderson, quarterback Andrew Luck, and cornerback D'Joun Smith out.
Hasselbeck is pretty beat up with a rib injury, and he acknowledged to media yesterday that as of Monday he didn't know whether he was going to be able to play. He said that it was still a hinderance to breathe heavily, which is kind of important, but he's going to tough it out on Sunday and play through the injury. He said yesterday that it wasn't as much of a pain issue as it was a performance issue (how well would he be able to play), and it sounds like the coaches are confident enough that he can produce. According to FOX59's Mike Chappell, Pagano said today that Hasslebeck has looked "really good" in practice and that the Colts are "very, very encouraged. He's going to play really good." Pagano later said that he's not worried about Hasselbeck's injuries and that he has confidence in his offensive line to protect and his running game to produce. "We'll have to protect our butts off," Pagano conceded, recognizing that he has a banged-up quarterback behind center in the biggest game of the year.
The good news from the protection standpoint is that Anthony Castonzo is set to return after missing the past three games with an MCL sprain. Castonzo will slide back in at left tackle and Joe Reitz will move back to right tackle, returning to the offensive line combination that gave the Colts the most success earlier this year. Getting Castonzo back should be a big boost to a line that has struggled in recent weeks without him, particularly at the tackle spots.
It will also be great to get Jerrell Freeman back after he missed the last two games, pairing him and D'Qwell Jackson together at inside linebacker again. The two had actually been playing really good football in the weeks leading up to Freeman's injury, so hopefully they will pick right up where they left off.
On the negative side as it pertains to injuries is the fact that Donte Moncrief and Greg Toler are both questionable. If Moncrief can't play, Andre Johnson could get another chance to shine against his former team and rookie Phillip Dorsett could also see quite a bit of time, while if Toler can't play it would likely be Jalil Brown making his second straight start.