The Indianapolis Colts enter into their week 14 matchup against the rival Houston Texans with two things no one expected at the start of the season: a winning record, and a chance to win the AFC South title.
Of course, the biggest obstacle in that second pursuit are the Texans themselves. Houston enters this week with an 11-2 record following an embarrassing loss to New England at Gillette Stadium win week 13. In that game the Texans offense, which averages 384.5 yards per game (6th in the NFL) and 28.1 points per game (4th), was held to 323 yards and 14 points. The Texans defense, which has been almost as good as the offense in giving up 330 yards per game (7th) and 20.2 points per game (6th), was completely blitzed, allowing the Patriots to rack up 419 yards and 42 points.
A lot of that has to be due to the Texans defensive front (and defensive end J.J. Watt specifically) seven being unable to put consistent pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The Texans have sacked the opposing quarterback 37 times (T-4th), but could only knock down Brady once. Watt, the potential Defensive Player of the Year, has 11 sacks credited to his name, but couldn’t get to Brady at all.
Against the Colts struggling and injured offensive line however, that shouldn’t be an issue. Eight different Colts have played or started on the o-line, with only 2nd year left tackle Anthony Castonzo playing and starting all 13 games at the same spot. The injuries to starters Samson Satele (center), Winston Justice (right tackle), and Joe Reitz (right guard) have led to the team’s inability in securing consistent protection for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The constant pressure defenses are able to bring has consequently led to Luck’s statistical valley.
In the nine games before the New England blow-out, Luck had completed 57.5% of his passes for 2,631 yards, 10 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and a 79.8 quarterback rating. That in itself does not tell the whole story – Luck’s completion % had been steadily increasing, reaching a peak of 69.2% against Jacksonville in week 10, right before New England. Then injuries hit. In the five games since New England, Luck has completed just 49.7% of his passes for 1,161 yards, 8 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The casual observer might mistake that for a downward spiral by a rookie quarterback, but the problem with that theory is the Colts have still won all but the Patriots game since that point. Luck has made mistakes, and thrown plenty of picks, but credit that more to the poor protection than to Luck.
But the Colts will likely be no match for the Texans defense. Yes, the Colts are 2-2 in games against teams with winning records, but the two games they’ve lost (Chicago and New England) have both been on the road, and the average margin of loss has been a staggering 27.5 points. Not to mention the fact that said offensive line couldn’t block my grandmother right now. Add all that up and it looks to be a tough day for the Colts and Luck, but a good one for the Texans.
My 5 Predictions
Luck – Up to this point, many in the media have speculated that despite the downward trend and stats for Luck the past few weeks, he’s still the front runner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. This game will probably take him out of the top spot. Against an angry, embarrassed Texans defense (you can be damned sure they will do anything and everything it takes to avoid losing to a rookie), the Colts will have no answers. Luck completes just 48% of his passes for 210 yards, 2 touchdowns, but three interceptions. Go ahead and add a fumble loss and 4 sacks taken as well. RGIII: You are welcome, sir.
Vick Ballard – The 5th-round rookie running back has played consistently better since the start of the season, including a 19 carry, 94 yard outing last week against Tennessee. If the Colts are going to have any kind of success, they need Ballard to go off the charts and give some help for Luck. The only way to keep the defense honest is to break out some good runs and to have Luck complete some short passes. We’ve already covered Luck. Ballard won’t fare much better against the Texans 2nd ranked run defense. He gets 15 carries for 40 yards.
Matt Schaub – The Texans quarterback had a rough go last week, but looks to rebound against Indy. The Colts give up 241.8 yards through the air on average (20th) and have allowed 22 passing touchdowns. Against Schaub, wide receiver Andre Johnson, and tight end Owen Daniels, the Colts young and inexperienced secondary will likely get lit up. Schaub completes 70% of his passes for 380 yards and three scores.
Arian Foster – If any single Texan is rarin’ to go against the Colts, it’s this guy. The Houston running back has a history of destroying the Colts, and week 15 of the 2012 season should be no different. Foster runs the ball with passion and purpose. On the 22 attempts, he’ll get 202 yards and two touchdowns.
Final Score – The Colts will take a (big) hit this week, but stay well within playoff reach. They just won’t win the division, as the Texans clinch it with a 41-14 victory.
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