To say this Thursday’s game against Houston is important may be an understatement.
A match-up to potentially decide the fate of the division, winning would give Indianapolis a one-game advantage AND the tie-breaker should both they and Houston finish with the same record. Meanwhile, a loss would spell a one-game disadvantage and a steep hole to climb out of.
Ultimately, this one is for all the marbles. If three position battles go Indy’s way (admittedly a big if), it looks like Frank Reich and company will take those same marbles back to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Colts WR TY Hilton listed as a full participant in practice today (though it was just a walkthrough) and is officially questionable for Thursday's game in Houston. Same with CB Pierre Desir.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) November 20, 2019
1. Colts Wide Receivers vs. Texans Defensive Backs
Arguably the two most injured position groups in the entire league, this one might simply come down to who stays healthy.
For the Colts, Devin Funchess is still out while Parris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton will be game-time decisions. Hilton’s status is key in this one, as not only is he obviously their top target, but he’s seemingly had his way against Texans corners for the good part of a decade. Ultimately if he isn’t able to suit up, Zach Pascal will be #1 option once again. He’s played great as a complementary piece, but it’s a role he’s simply too limited to fully excel in.
As for Houston, their secondary is a poor unit to begin with, (3 of their top 4 corners have allowed 100+ passer ratings this season) and that likely won’t improve on a short week. Their top corner (Bradley Roby) and 3 of their safeties (Justin Reid, Tashaun Gipson, Mike Adams) are all questionable to play, while depth corner Lonnie Johnson might not even be able to suit up as well. Jacoby Brissett isn’t a QB known for his deep ball, but testing this porous secondary will be key to a Colts victory - even if their wideout group is just as hobbled.
Indianapolis might be missing their top 2 RB’s, top 3 WR’s, and 2 of their top 3 TE’s when they play the Texans tomorrow.— Carter Donnick (@CDonnick3) November 20, 2019
Houston might be missing 3 safeties and 2 of their top 4 corners when they play the Colts tomorrow.
Abolish Thursday night football.
2. Texans Wide Receivers vs. Colts Defensive Backs
More position groups. More injuries.
Just like Houston’s secondary is in an iffy spot regarding health, Indy is in an extremely similar situation on their back-end. Emerging rookie Khari Willis has been ruled out this week, which leaves Clayton Geathers to take over the starting strong spot. With Pierre Desir also questionable, it leaves the Colts in a pickle. Desir has been one of the only corners in the league that’s actually been able to limit Deandre Hopkins these past few seasons. Thus, without him, it would leave Houston with an understandable advantage.
To win this match-up, Indy will either need Desir healthy or promising rookie Marvell Tell to put together a spectacular performance. Despite Tell’s strong game against Jacksonville, the organization is likely hoping for the former to come to fruition.
3. Colts Interior Offensive Line vs. Texans Interior Defensive Line
Good teams build from the inside out. Both the Colts and Texans abide by that same philosophy.
It’s no secret Quenton Nelson has been the best offensive guard in football this season and his impact from the interior has allowed the Colts to sport one of the league’s top rushing attacks. How he, Ryan Kelly, and Mark Glowinski play is going to go a long way in determining the winner of this game - as per usual.
The main difference in this match-up compared to others, however, is that Houston has an equally dominant run defense, with nose tackle D.J. Reader holding the highest run stop% of any player in the league with 50% or more of his team’s snaps (via PFF).
If Indy can control the trenches, things will likely be looking good, but they’re going to need Nelson and the O-Line to bring their A+ game.