Perhaps the greatest disadvantage from the Colts getting flexed to Sunday Night Football is the potential it creates for a short week to prepare for Wild Card weekend. The NFL often displays its infinite wisdom and awareness during the season so it was no surprise that it flexed the Colts and Titans to Sunday night and rewarded the winner by scheduling them to participate first playoff game of the weekend at 4:35 PM ET on Saturday.
Congratulations Indianapolis Colts and thank you for helping us end the season with a meaningful win-and-in finale. Your reward? The shortest break of any team entering the playoffs.
NFL Scheduling Geniuses
The late Sunday game meant that not only did the Colts not practice on Monday, understandably, but they only completed a walk through on Tuesday. Look on the bright side, Houston and Indianapolis should be plenty familiar with one another so game-planning should be relatively straight forward. Resting players and having them physically ready for Saturday will be the challenge.
Here is the initial Colts injury report from the walk through, which is more of a projected expectation if the team had actually held a full practice.
Because of today's walkthrough, the injury report is only an estimation of a player's participation if there was a practice. pic.twitter.com/1VS3dfpAxT— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 1, 2019
The good news is that Ryan Kelly and Anthony Walker would both be listed as participating. If Kelly is able to return healthy on Saturday, it will go a long way to helping the offensive line continue to dominate in the trenches. The unit has done a relatively solid job of keeping J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney at bay this season but adding Kelly inside could allow the running game to grind things out and slow down the edge rush even more.
Walker had the smallest statistical output of his season against the Titans after returning from a shoulder injury. One has to wonder just how much that nagging injury impacted his ability to make a difference in the game. It is encouraging to see that he would have practiced on Tuesday and it hopefully is an indication that he is continuing to improve.
The biggest concerns for those who would have sat out from the practice are T.Y. Hilton, Tyquan Lewis and Clayton Geathers. All three players play important roles for Indianapolis and can make key plays to allow the Colts to advance against the Texans. As a precaution, Chris Ballard chose to waive cornerback Jalen Collins this week to make room for veteran defensive end Geneo Grissom. If Lewis is unable to play, don’t be surprised if Grissom gets pushed into early action.
The biggest question-mark for the week will be how Hilton progresses from his ankle injury. There is little doubt that he will play but he was clearly affected by the ankle all Sunday evening against the Titans. The more mobility he has and the less pain he experiences on Saturday, the more likely it is that the Colts passing offense can get rolling.
While Clayton Geathers is likely one of the more underappreciated defensive players on the team this season, he fills a hybrid safety/linebacker role that no other player on the roster is particularly suited to play. This is important for Matt Eberflus and the nickel defense as he can rotate Geathers and rookie George Odum based upon down, distance and game situation. Without him, Odum is asked to do a lot more and Houston will gain a bit of an advantage.
Keep an eye out for the first official injury report after practice this afternoon.