The past two weeks have been huge for the Colts. They ground out a tough road win against the Chiefs and then had a chance to get their bodies right over the bye week. Now they will host the Houston Texans in a huge divisional match-up that will almost certainly have playoff implications for two teams that are yet again on a collision course. Ahead of that match-up, let’s take a look at these teams and make some bold predictions for Sunday’s game.
T.Y. Hilton has a career best game against Texans
This first prediction might be a bit too bold. Don’t get me wrong, I fully expect T.Y. Hilton to have a big game Sunday. The Texans’ two starting cornerbacks, Johnathan Joseph and Bradley Roby are both dealing with hamstring injuries. Even if they play, they’ll do so at less than 100%, and Hilton has had two weeks to get ready for them. There is very little reason to think he won’t have a big game.
So why is this prediction so bold? Well, that’s because of what he has done against the Texans in the past. Here’s the bar for him to have a career best game against the Texans: Hilton’s best game against them came back in 2014, when he put up 223 yards and a touchdown against them. Surpassing that total would be tough.
Now I know that many of you are muttering about Jacoby Brissett being unable to hit the deep ball, or being too scared to go deep, and that just isn’t true. The offense doesn’t call for him to do it much, and it is true that he hasn’t taken many deep shots, but he is completely capable.
Know how I know? Well, when you look at Hilton’s 3rd best game against the Texans, it just so happens that Jacoby Brissett was under center for it. The stat line? 175 yards and 2 touchdowns. I’d like to repeat that this is just his 3rd best yardage performance against this team.
Here’s one of those touchdowns from that game:
So it is no small thing to say that Hilton will have a career high game. My prediction? 225 yards and 2 touchdowns. This Colts offense is about to show that it is capable of winning in a variety of ways to capitalize on its opponents’ weaknesses, and this week that means it is going to be a light show.
The Colts defense forces 2 big turnovers
The Colts haven’t been coming through on the mandate Chris Ballard set for them ahead of this season. During the offseason and on the lead up to and following the draft, he repeatedly talked about the need to take the ball away. That hasn’t happened at nearly the pace it should. They rank 27th in takeaways per game, and the list of teams below them isn’t encouraging. Jacksonville, Miami, Arizona, Atlanta, and Dallas comprise that list, and only Dallas looks like it has any potential to be a playoff team.
If the Colts want to win games and fight their way into the playoffs, they’ll have to do a better job of taking the ball away. The good news? They’re getting back a guy who can help make that happen. Darius Leonard has been out 3 games with a concussion, and the man is hungry and ready to make an impact. Leonard was the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and his ability to chop the ball free came up big for them last season.
Add to that the fact that Denico Autry got 4 of his 9 sacks last year against the Texans, and it seems like this could be a day we see the Colts’ front seven find some success in creating turnovers.
To sweeten the deal even further, I’m adding that one of those turnovers will come by way of a rookie. With Ben Banogu taking a bigger role in Kemoko Turay’s absence, as well as Bobby Okereke, Khari Willis, and Rock Ya-Sin, I like my chances here.
Missed kicks will play a critical role in this game
The Colts and Texans play each other very close. In 5 of the last 7 meetings between these teams, the game has been decided by one score. That puts a lot of pressure on the kicking game to be perfect. The problem? It has been far from perfect for these two teams this season.
Adam Vinatieri has missed 3 field goals and 3 extra points so far this season. Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has also struggled this season, missing 3 field goals and 4 extra points. The difference? 5 of Vinatieri’s 6 misses came in weeks 1 and 2. The final one was a 57 yarder against the Raiders. Since week 3 he has been back to his reliable self.
That is not the case for Fairbairn, who has missed 2 kicks in each of the Texans’ past two games. The last thing anyone wants is to see a missed kick decide a game that could have major playoff implications, but that’s exactly what I think is going to happen. Unfortunately for the Texans, I don’t think it will be Vinny who comes up short.
What are your bold predictions for this game?