No one gave the Indianapolis Colts much of a shot to win the Week 15 game in Reliant Stadium against the Houston Texans when the schedule was released. Even though the Colts are 9-4, no one is still giving them much of a shot. Rightfully so, the Texans have been the class of the AFC most of this season as they were 11-1 entering Monday’s game with the New England Patriots. Everyone saw the embarrassment put on in Foxboro Stadium on Monday night and now saying they’re no longer the best team.
Many do think they will beat the Colts by just over one possession as they have so much to play for. I honestly even said the Colts will probably lose until I broke down all aspects of this matchup. The Colts do have a shot if they do one thing effectively and do it well.
They have to convert on big time plays.
The Texans secondary is banged up and it’s showing. They’re deep into their depth chart and bringing in guys off the street to play. Since they’ve been doing this, they’ve given up many big plays. In three of the last four games, Houston has given up 30+ points. In all of those games, they failed to defend the deep ball.
Look at the two losses, Tom Brady hit two targets on touchdown passes with gains of more than 20 yards on the pass. In their first loss, Aaron Rodgers hit deep receivers with ease as he threw for six touchdowns. Half of those touchdown passes were in gains of longer than 20 yards.
Many would think this would be a tall task for a rookie quarterback to do with such a stellar Texans pass rush, but what many forget is how well Andrew Luck scrambles away from pressure and finds open targets. This will be key and has been a big factor all season. Luck leads the AFC in rushing yards by quarterbacks and has another high right now that feeds into this matchup.
The Colts and Luck have the most plays of over 20 yards in the league right now. Luck has 57 completed passes of 20 yards or longer and six of those were touchdown tosses. That’s four more than second place Peyton Manning and five more than third place Drew Brees.
Doesn’t that go hand in hand with how bad the Texans are at covering deep targets?
The Texans don’t have the personnel right now to defend Reggie Wayne, Donnie Avery, and T.Y. Hilton. I’d expect the Colts to come out doing enough to manage the game on the ground and hit Wayne, Avery, and the two rookie tight ends with short passes early. Doing this should manage the team’s turnovers and set up the deep passes to Hilton.
If the Colts can continue to exploit this issue with the Texans as statistics show they can, they will be victorious on Sunday.