The battle for the AFC South has it’s first true major game this Sunday night in Houston. The 3-2 Texans are in first place in the division after winning it last year, but it once again is a very close race so far.
In fact, if the 2-3 Colts win on Sunday they will take over the AFC South lead thanks to tiebreakers. That may say more about how bad the division is than anything else, but here’s the point: this Sunday’s game is crucial. Further complicating things for the Colts is that they are already 0-1 in the division, so they would obviously like to avoid an 0-2 start against division opponents if they can help it. It won’t be easy, however, as they will go on the road to face the Texans on Sunday Night Football.
The Colts have actually done really well against the Texans, as they are 23-5 against them all-time and have won six of the last seven, including their last five games with Andrew Luck at quarterback. The Colts are 10-4 in Houston and have won their last three matchups there.
As has been the case all year, the Colts will be relying upon Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, and Adam Vinatieri to help them win. And all three of those players are not only having great seasons, they’ve also played very well against the Texans in their careers. Luck has a 14 to 3 touchdown to interception ratio against Houston; Hilton has caught 43 passes for 778 yards and six touchdowns; and Vinatieri has converted 33 of 37 kicks against the Texans while a member of the Colts. The three of them have also been the driving forces behind the Colts’ two wins this season, especially last week - when Luck connected with Hilton for the game-winning score in the fourth quarter and when Vinatieri hit five field goals. The team will need more of the same this Sunday from those three.
The Texans’ defense is a good unit, even though they lost their star in J.J. Watt - a guy who is arguably the best player in the NFL. He’s out for the year, but the Houston defense still has playmakers and still should present a good test for the Colts’ offense. But it’s likely that it will come down to the matchup on the other side of the football to really help determine this game, since we know that with Luck, Hilton, and Vinatieri the Colts will likely be able to put up some points.
The matchup between the weaker unit from both teams could prove just as crucial. The Colts’ defense has been really bad this year, but the Texans offense has struggled as well behind the sub-par play of big free agent signing Brock Osweiler. He’s completing 58% of his passes for 1,113 yards (6.0 yards per attempt), six touchdowns and seven picks through five games, ranking 29th among 31 qualifying quarterbacks this season in passer rating. The quarterback matchup in this game, with Andrew Luck playing very well this season and Brock Osweiler struggling, is quite the contrast. But the Texans do have some playmakers on the offensive side of the football, as running back Lamar Miller and wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller will give the Colts some problems defensively. There was a lot of talk this week about whether the Colts would have Vontae Davis shadow Hopkins this week, and while they’d be smart to do so, there will inevitably be a mismatch somewhere in the passing game that the Texans can exploit.
It’s a huge game for both teams, as the winner will notch a big victory in the race for the AFC South crown this year. It’s only week six, but it’s a very big early season matchup. It will be key to see how the Colts defense is about to do against the Texans offense (since both units are struggling), but like is always the case, if the Colts are going to win this game it will come down to Andrew Luck. Both of Indy’s wins this year have come via fourth quarter comebacks (and both of those comebacks have come via Luck to Hilton connections), and with that plus the fact that the Colts have had the ball in every game with a chance to win it so far, there’s absolutely reason to believe that the Colts will be able to keep this one close. And from there, it’s anybody’s guess as whether Luck will be able to pull out the win.