The Colts head into their first AFC South match-up with a chance to put the Texans in a very difficult position. A Colts give them a two game cushion over Houston and would put the Texans in an 0-4 hole to start the year. A loss by one or both of the Titans and Jaguars could see Indianapolis move up in the rankings as well.
With the New England Patriots on the road Thursday night, this is one Frank Reich really needs to win. Here are some of the keys to an important home win.
Pester Deshaun Watson
Over the last couple of weeks, the Colts have started to get something going with their pass rush. Kemoko Turay showed signs of production, Margus Hunt continues to dominate, and Darius Leonard’s speed has shown in a big way. Perhaps the best pass rusher of the bunch, Jabaal Sheard, has also be dialing up the pressure and could easily be tied for the team lead in sacks right now if not for penalties.
If Andrew Luck has earned a reputations for holding onto the ball too longer in his young career, Deshaun Watson certainly belongs right there with him. They both have a fearless attitude in the pocket and try to extend plays. Sometimes this trait leads to heroics, other times, especially against fast penetrating defenses, it can lead to sacks, turnovers, and negative plays.
If the Colts can get into Watson’s head and stay there, it’s unlikely that the Texans backfield will be able to carry Houston to a win.
Red Zone Efficiency
The Indianapolis Colts offense has come into the 2018 season looking sluggish. There are plenty of causes for this, including Andrew Luck being rusty and needing some time to get himself completely back into game shape, and injuries all of the offense. However, Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni must find a way to improve the red zone issues. If the Colts can’t punch the ball into the end zone when they get into the red zone, there will be unnecessarily large weight placed on the Colts defense to continue carrying the team.
Andrew Luck’s Decision-Making and Accuracy
There are plenty of questions about Andrew Luck’s arm strength to this point in the season, and we’ve monitored and reported on this questions — including full film breakdowns every week to see how Luck is progressing. Assuming that his throwing shoulder is still healthy and not experiencing a set back, Indianapolis needs him to cut down on the mental mistakes and easy misses.
Colts fans are used to seeing Andrew Luck use deep ball accuracy to pick apart opponents and create big plays. To this point, a drop by T.Y. Hilton, pass interference calls, and some throws that have been off-target have limited some of the home run plays. Frank Reich’s play-calling style and quick hitting offense certainly play a role in this change as well but the offense will have to start hitting on deep strikes to really open things up.
The Colts are a fumble, a few penalties, and a couple of broken red zone plays away from being in a much better position this year. One thing appears to be a key to the offense have more success and keeping Indianapolis in games is offensive balance. When the Colts go away from the ground game, even against top rushing defenses, sledding gets really difficult. It’s possible that Frank Reich and the coaching staff need to stick with Jordan Wilkins a bit more and allow him to get the most out of each carry as he has certainly been the back with the most consistent success in his limited opportunities.
Slow Down the Texans Pass Rush
Somehow, the Texans defense line that includes players like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney should be one of the more manageable units the young team has faced this season. These players are still premier weapons and highly effective at creating disruption and getting to the quarterback. With Joe Haeg recently placed on injured reserve and Anthony Castonzo set to miss another game, Denzelle Good and Le’Raven Clark will have to continue playing up and doing their best to keep Andrew Luck clean.
If Luck has time in the pocket and can get the ground game and quick passing game going, T.Y. Hilton should have a nice day. If Luck is on his back, that isn’t possible.
1 PM ET on Sunday, September 30, 2018
Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, IN
CBS– Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Adam Archuleta (color commentator)
WFNI (107.5FM/1070 The Fan) and WLHK (Country 97.1 Hank FM)