The Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans will face off on Sunday in a game that very well could wind up deciding the AFC South, as both teams are 6-6 and the winner will take over first place with just three weeks remaining.
It’s a huge game, and the Colts are trying to play “catch up” to the Texans, who are technically in first place because of the tiebreaker advantage after beating the Colts earlier this year. Since that game, however, the Texans are just 2-4 and have lost their last three in a row, while the Colts are 4-2 since that game and have won three of their last four.
To get a better idea of the Texans and how they’ve been doing recently, Battle Red Blog’s Brett Kollman was kind enough to answer some questions for us. Our questions are in bold, and Brett’s answers follow. Thanks to Brett for joining us to answer these questions!
1. Since the last time the Colts and the Texans met, how has the season gone for Houston? What changes have been most evident from the team, whether in a good way or a bad way?
Honestly, not much has changed. The offense still can't move the ball through the air, special teams is still maddeningly inconsistent, and the defense is still the only unit holding this whole team together. The only difference between now and then is that the depth chart is significantly more banged up with nagging injuries to star players like Lamar Miller and Jadeveon Clowney. In short, after three straight losses the Texans are definitely trending down right now.
2. So Brock Osweiler... what are the fans' thoughts on him? How has he done compared to the expectations of fans when he was signed?
We expected competent quarterback play when he was signed because that is exactly what he showed he could do in Denver, but somehow in the flight from Colorado to Texas he forgot how to do that. A combination of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden, and T.J. Yates all managed to get DeAndre Hopkins the ball on a consistent basis last year when he was the only credible weapon this offense had, and yet somehow one year later - despite adding a bunch of new pieces all over the field to carry the load - Osweiler has been unable to replicate that success. I don't get it...I just really, really don't.
3. How has the loss of J.J. Watt impacted things defensively for Houston, and how have they been able to respond?
Not much has changed, really. Jadeveon Clowney has stepped into Watt's role as the movable chess piece that can line up all over the front, and he's done so at an elite level. Clowney has been arguably the best run stopper in the entire league this season - even more imposing than Watt himself when he was healthy - and as a pass rusher he has had plenty of flashes as well. He still isn't quite the all-around terror that Watt has been in the previous five seasons, but he's certainly getting there. It's only a matter of time before his athleticism translates to more than just annihilating running backs in the back field..
4. Let's suppose the Texans lose on Sunday, lose the division, and miss the playoffs - is Bill O'Brien still safe this year regardless?
He's probably safe this year no matter what - this franchise is notoriously loyal to a fault, after all. If Osweiler continues to bust in 2017 and the team has no viable options to replace him, however, then you might start to see some changes.
5. Knowing what you do about the Texans, how would you attack them if you were the Colts' offensive and defensive coordinators?
If I'm the Colts offensive coordinator, I just run it anywhere that Clowney is not lined up. Despite Clowney being an unbelievable force on early downs, he is still only one player. The rest of the unit has struggled to keep running backs in check throughout this entire season, and that includes being the first team to give up 100 yards on the ground to the Colts in years. With this defense even more banged up than it was in week 6, there is a legitimate chance that we see a repeat of that (rare) performance this Sunday.
As for the Colts' defensive plans, just load the box to stop Lamar Miller and make Brock Osweiler beat you through the air. I know that Osweiler did beat Indy through the air the first time these two teams played, but putting the game on his fragile shoulders is still Chuck Pagano's best chance to win this contest. The sooner you can make this a shootout, the easier it will be for the Colts to come out with a victory.