For the second time in three weeks, the Colts and Texans faced off in another tight 60 minutes of football. The two games had nearly symmetrical finishes with Houston fumbling the football in the red zone, and a Colts recovery to end it. On Sunday, the game ended by a score of 27-20, and even though the score was tight, there was a ton of upside.
Only two weeks left in the regular season, and lots of playoff implications on the line. Let’s check in on the thermometer for week 15.
I want to start with the negatives this week because there are not very many to discuss.
Quite frankly, I only have one major problem with the team right now and it has been a problem for the past several weeks.
In four of the last five games for the Colts, the opposing quarterback has thrown for over 300 yards. On Sunday specifically, Deshaun Watson went 33 for 41 on attempts which came to 373 passing yards and zero interceptions.
I realize that over the past five games the Colts have had to play against Deshaun Watson twice, Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill, and Aaron Rodgers, but this is still a tough pill to swallow.
A lot has to go into big passing games like this, so I do not want to solely blame it on the Colts secondary, but they are certainly the biggest culprit in this situation. Some other factors could be garbage time yards and a lack of pressure from the defensive line.
Against Watson specifically, I thought the defense did a fine job handling the Houston offensive line, but they had a much harder time containing Watson. Sure, as a unit, the Colts put up a total of five sacks and eight QB hits, which is great, but Watson continued to find a way to make the magic happen. It felt like every big play that the Texans made was a result of Watson scrambling outside of the pocket and making an absurd throw that would pick up a first down. It happened over, and over, and over again.
Cornerback is one of the hardest positions to play in all of football, and when Watson begins to scramble and gets out of the pocket, you never know what he’s going to pull off. The defense did the best they could with him, and it was just barely enough to pull off the victory.
My biggest concern is, come playoff time, how will the Colts handle these better teams that have other impressive quarterbacks? Indy has shown sparks of dominance and an ability to control the game when they need too, but they have also put together some poorly constructed defensive drives and let opposing teams right back into games that could be more easily won.
Granted, I do not want to put all the blame on the defense, because they have been impressive all year long and are the major reason why the Colts are even sitting with a potential playoff spot in week 16. This is my one and only major concern for the team as of right now. Two weeks to get themselves in the right mindset and dominate in the playoffs.
Too many positives to count as of recent for this Colts team, and a lot of them are pretty self explanatory.
Starting with the offense, the offensive line has been performing top notch recently. Letting up just one sack on Rivers this past week, and being a dominant force in the run game.
The offensive line is really helping out Jonathan Taylor who has also been extremely consistent these past few weeks, and is pulling off longer runs and making them look easy. His vision and decision making has made a clear improvement since the beginning of the season, and he will without a doubt be a major factor for the Colts come playoff time.
It’s not just the run game that has been boosted by the performance of the offensive line, it’s the passing game too. Rivers has been on fire for a while now, and shows no signs of letting up even with his injured toe.
This past week Rivers had 22 completions on 28 attempts with 228 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. He has been phenomenal recently with taking care of the football and making the right decisions. His play has clearly rubbed off on the receivers who have all also been having big games recently.
Against Houston, the top receiver was Zach Pascal who had 79 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Colts. Another player who the Colts hope is starting to get hot at the right time.
On the defensive side of things, it is pretty obvious how impactful DeForest Buckner has been this year for the Colts. Buckner had three sacks and four QB hits on Sunday, and has been a dominant force all year long.
Darius Leonard has been a tackle machine all year long, and made the biggest play of the game on Sunday when he punched the ball out of Keke Coutee’s hand for Bobby Okereke to recover in the end zone and solidify the win for Indy.
This week, I am keeping the thermometer where it is. The main reasoning for this is because they are already pretty hot on the thermometer, but have not shown me enough to believe that they are going to make the Super Bowl. They played pretty well this past Sunday, and barely squeaked out a win against a four win team. There are an insane amount of different seeding scenarios at this point for the Colts, but the two biggest objectives that Colts fans should have on their minds this week is a Colts win and a Titans loss. The Colts, of course play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday who started off the season incredibly hot winning their first 11 games, but have since lost 3 straight. The Titans have the Sunday night football game against the Green Bay Packers, which will likely be one of the more exciting football games this weekend. If the Colts win and the Titans lose, Indy would then have possession of the AFC South and at worst the fourth seed in the AFC for the playoffs through week 16. There are several other important games that could put the Colts in an even better or worse position, but those two games are by far the biggest. If the Colts can convincingly take down the Steelers this weekend, I will definitely consider bumping up the thermometer, but regardless of how poorly they have played recently, Pittsburgh will always be a tough task. In their history, the Colts are 6-25 against the Steelers. They haven’t defeated Pittsburgh since 2008, which is seven games ago between the two teams. A tough challenge on Sunday, let’s see if the Colts can prove that they deserve to be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.