In Week 18 our Indianapolis Colts will host the Houston Texans. Knowing the party was coming to town I sat down with Scott Barzilla aka VBallRetired of Battle Red Blog, SB Nation’s Houston Texans blog. We swapped questions and answers about both the Texans and the Colts and what follows is what I’ve learned about this week’s enemy.
CS: For more than one reason many Colts fans would appreciate a Texans win on Sunday. How are Texans fans viewing this game and is anyone actually hoping they win?
SB: I’m sure there are some isolated fans hoping for the win. Losing the Jaguars means we will get either the first or second pick and after watching C.J. Stroud in the Peach Bowl it seems pretty evident there are at least two potential stud quarterbacks in this draft. The Bears aren’t in the market for one, so someone will try to acquire that pick if the Texans don’t have it. Who knows, it could be the Colts and for many Texans fans that would be the nightmare scenario. If you are asking me, I would just as soon lose. Being number one in the draft means you can listen to offers or simply pick the quarterback you think is best. I think the path to relevance for both teams is pretty similar. We need the quarterback and the higher up you are the better. I expect a tankathon on Sunday. I’m sure the NFL isn’t thrilled with either of our teams or the Bears, but they set up the rules and sucking is the way to go on Sunday.
CS: The Colts, as you know, have had some issues with the head coaching position this season. Given everything that’s happened this season what are the chances that the Texans fire Lovie Smith and have a second, 1-and-done head coach in a row?
SB: I would say the chances are very good that Smith is gone on Monday. Simply put, the team has regressed this season in key areas and if you are bringing in a future franchise quarterback you cannot have this offensive staff develop him. Davis Mills regressed this year and while most never considered him a franchise quarterback there were some fans that hoped he would be. He certainly deserves some criticism but based on what he did last season there was no reason for him to be this bad. That’s on the offensive coordinator and head coach. This doesn’t even mention that the team will have at least 40-50 million to spend in free agency and could have more depending on what the new cap will be set at and whether they can deal some key veterans like Brandin Cooks. If you want to attract the best guys you have to have a coach they can believe in. Smith just isn’t it. In his last three years as an NFL head coach he has won ten games. If you include his Illonois coaching record it is even worse. There is no reason to believe he can turn it around and with the number of fans dressing up as empty seats, this team needs some excitement baked in.
CS: Despite their record it seems like the Texans have played their best ball over the past 5 games, what have the Texans done that have resulted in close games against good opponents?
SB: The Texans have used more young players than any team in the league. At one time, they have more than a dozen first or second year players in the offensive or defensive rotation. Young players take time to grow and learn how to play consistently at the NFL level. In particular, safety Jalen Pitre began the year dropping would be interceptions and missing numerous tackles in the open field. He was leading the league in missed tackles at one point. When you look up he has led the team in tackles a few times during that five game stretch and has five interceptions on the season. He was always around the ball so it was just a matter of time. Fellow rookie Chrstian Harris isn’t a stud, but he has been playing much better as well. He has averaged a tackle for a loss or two per game over that five game stretch. Obonnia Okoronkwo is not a rookie, but he has elevated his play in recent weeks. The combination has given them a much better defense and a defense that creates turnovers. Those turnovers have single-handedly kept them in games they probably shouldn’t have been in and wouldn’t have been without those turnovers.
CS: Who is someone that has been a positive surprise this season on offense and on defense?
SB: I already mentioned the defensive players above that have been the biggest surprises, but I’ll add Jerry Hughes. Hughes has nine sacks on the season and hasn’t had that many since 2014. He has also added ten tackles for loss on the season. He isn’t going to make anyone forget Reggie White or Bruce Smith, but he has been a solid pro and a really nice rotational defender. On offense, the performance of Dameon Pierce was the biggest positive on the season. if he hadn’t gone on injured reserve he likely would have been the offensive rookie of the year. As it stands, he could rival Derrick Henry or Zachary Taylor if he gets in the right offense. If he had finished the last four games healthy he likely would have come close to 1300 yards rushing with another 200 receiving. Unfortunately, he will not be there this Sunday and no one in attendance has been particularly surprising.
CS: DraftKings Sportsbook has the Colts as 3-point favorites. Do you think that’s fair? How do you see this game playing out and what’s the final score?
SB: I wouldn’t touch this game with a 39 and a half foot pole. It is in both team’s best interest to lose (as we stated above). However, you never know how those 47 guys are going to react. Some might be apt to make a business decision and just play out the string. Others will ball out because they want jobs next year and this is their last opportunity to show some good tape. I really have no sense of how this game will play out except I can’t imagine it being a high scoring game. Sam Ehlinger and Davis Mills are just not good quarterbacks. Houston will throw out Jeff Driskel on some plays and that could make the game a little more spicy. My dream scenario would be a 0-0 tie where both teams just punt back and forth all day. It would embarrass the NFL and maybe would convince them to institute some sort of lottery instead of watching a tankathon every week 18.
If you’re betting on this game, you can find updated lines at DraftKings Sportsbook.
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, all 2022 season 5 Questions articles are in the book. I want to thank Scott Barzilla for working with me this week and I’d like to thank 12 of the other 13 writers I worked with this season for making it all possible.
Here’s to an injury free game and the official start of Draft Season.