Six Points: Colts vs. Texans
The Colts (2-2) head to Houston Thursday night looking to make history against the Texans (1-3), while bringing an important part of Houston’s franchise history to town with them.
With a victory, Indianapolis, winners of 15 straight against divisional foes, would break the record set by the Miami Dolphins from 1972-73. The game also marks the return of former Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson to Houston.
Coming off last week’s 16-13 overtime win against the Jaguars, the Colts will once again be without Andrew Luck, who sat out last week’s game with a shoulder injury.
The Texans enter Thursday night looking to improve following a 48-21 blowout at the hands of the Falcons in which Atlanta scored the game’s first 42 points.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Colts and the Texans.
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1. Establish some semblance of a running game
Houston got Arian Foster back in the lineup last week, but managed just 54 yards on the ground against Atlanta. Bill O’Brien stressed this week the importance of getting the rushing attack going if the team is to have success on offense. The ability to run the ball with either Foster or Alfred Blue will help take some of the pressure off quarterback Ryan Mallett.
2. Get Ryan Mallett in a rhythm early
The Houston quarterback struggled in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, posting a passer rating of 46.8 en route to being benched in the third quarter. With the Texans playing on a short week, O’Brien elected to give the five-year veteran another shot as the starter. His accuracy last week was an issue, and getting off to quick start, even with short passes to Foster out of the backfield, may give him the confidence he needs to bounce back. Mallett has to play better to give the Texans a shot at winning.
3. Account for Andre Johnson
Johnson, who played 12 seasons in Houston before being released, would like nothing more than to get a measure of revenge against the Texans. The former All-Pro has yet to make much of an impact with the Colts, but a primetime game against his former team may be just the platform for him to break out. The Texans’ defensive backs did a nice job neutralizing Julio Jones last week. This week, they should turn their attention to Johnson.
1. Secure the football
Turnovers continue to be an issue for the Colts, particularly fumbles. Indianapolis has lost five fumbles so far, including two against Jacksonville. As the team faces an aggressive Houston defense angry after getting blown last week, protecting the football will be at a premium. It’s hard to win in the NFL coming up short in the turnover differential each week. Indianapolis needs to get this corrected soon.
2. Protect the backup
Hasselbeck, was sacked three times last week. This week, the Colts have to contend with J.J. Watt. At 2-2, Indianapolis is heading in the right direction, but they will need to get the running game established with Frank Gore, who has had fumble issues so far this season.
3. Don’t get burned by DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins, who has taken over for Johnson as Houston’s No. 1 receiver this season, has more than justified the team’s faith in him. Through four games, the third-year receiver has 31 catches for 409 yards and three touchdowns and is coming off a 157-yard game against the Falcons. He’s by far the most effective part of Houston’s offense right now, so limiting him will go a long way towards keeping the Texans in check.