The Indianapolis Colts have a short week this week after grinding out a victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday. They have three days to prepare for a very tough opponent in the Houston Texans for their Thursday night showdown at NRG stadium. The Colts offense seemed to be running efficiently with 40 year old Matt Hasselbeck leading the charge, but with dropped passes and fumbles on key drives the offense stumbled at the wrong times. Obviously that kind of stuff can’t happen in a game, but it most definitely cannot happen against Houston. No matter their record, the Texans always play the Colts tough and to the last possible second. Here are a few things to watch for as the Colts try to get north of .500 this season.
1. Andre Johnson
This is a homecoming game for Andre Johnson. He left Houston because the coaches basically told him he would be taking a backseat in the game plan and he didn’t care for that so he found a good landing spot in Indy. The problem is that he has taken a backseat here as well. It’s self-inflicted of course as the team has been trying to give him chances to turn his season around and it just hasn’t happened yet. He has been outplayed by all the other receivers so far this season and there isn’t much playing time for him to have right now. I would think that the Colts coaching staff will be trying to give him every chance this week to breakout of his slump in front of the team that essentially told him he was too old. If Johnson can turn it around in front of his former home team then I think that would be the confidence boost he has needed since week one. That would be a welcome sight for Colts fans everywhere.
2. Colts Offensive Line
The Colts’ offensive line looked pretty good this past weekend. They kept Hasselbeck upright for the most part during the game. The running game wasn’t that spectacular, but the Jags are tough against the run. This game should be different. The Texans defense has been lackluster so far, but playing the Colts always revs their engine. JJ Watt is looking for his first game of the season where he makes people’s eyes pop out. Against the suspect Colts O-Line it may just happen. Joe Reitz has the ability to block Watt, but will need some help. Andrew Luck should be playing this week so the offensive line is really going to have to continue to get better and protect the franchise a little better. With Luck sitting out this past Sunday I’m hopeful that was a wake up call to the line and the team that Luck isn’t as indestructible as once thought. The Texans rank 11th against the pass, though are 22nd against the rush. That bodes well for the line as they may not have to pass block as much as they usually do. That is as long as they open the holes for the running back and the backs hold onto the ball.
3. QB Situation
I think this may be the most obvious thing to watch this week, but it’s certainly the most important. The Colts let Josh Johnson go on Monday only to re-sign him today. The word is the Hasselbeck is sick and hasn’t been practicing and Luck is listed as questionable for the TNF match-up. No, I’m not saying that Johnson will be the starter, but the question is who will it be? If Luck can go he will obviously play. If he can’t and Hasselbeck has been battling sickness this week I think the question is do we see Josh Johnson playing as the Colts quarterback? Probably not, but this will be watched very closely just like it was before the Jags game. I’m saying that Luck is playing and Johnson is the back-up, but I’m just throwing that out there.
4. Defensive Backfield
Blake Bortles looked like a pro-bowl quarterback this past weekend against what was thought to be the strength of the Colts defense. The defensive backfield looked terrible against a mediocre passing offense and against a guy like Allen Hurns. Hurns is without a doubt a good receiver, but not nearly as good as he looked on Sunday. The problem this week is that Vontae Davis hasn’t practiced all week and Darius Butler hasn’t looked comfortable since returning to the field. On a positive note: Greg Toler will be playing this weekend, but Jalil Brown was placed on IR. Shaun Prater was re-signed this week to possibly cover for Brown going to the IR, but this mash-up stuff has to stop. Vontae hasn’t looked the same since coming off the concussion in Week 2, but the defense needs him AND Toler playing at the same time. I hate to admit it but the two compliment each other so well. Butler is a slot/nickel corner and nothing else. The only good thing is that the safeties are staying healthy and playing well. The cornerback position needs to be solid this week and moving forward.
5. Inside Linebacker
Jerrell Freeman has been ruled out for the Texans game (These injuries are getting annoying). If I were a betting man, and I am, I would say that Josh McNary gets the start for Freeman with Sio Moore seeing more playing time this week. D’Qwell Jackson needs his complimentary player to help with the coverage across the middle since he seemingly can’t do it. McNary and Moore have more of the coverage ability. Nate Irving could be in the mix more now as well. Okay, so I have basically put every inside linebacker in the mix for starting and more playing time. Honestly, I think McNary starts, but if he can’t hack it I think Moore gets the first call followed by Irving. With the Texans getting Arian Foster back, the run defense is going to have remain nearly flawless or he will make the Colts pay. The inside linebacker play against the run has been awesome so far this year so hopefully the Freeman injury doesn’t throw a wrench into what seems a well-oiled machine.
6. Dwayne Allen
Dwayne Allen will be back on the field this week. Last week Coby Fleener cleaned up pretty well with multiple catches and a touchdown. Allen will need to do well this week to avoid to much scrutiny from his comments in the Indy Star this past week. If you haven’t heard about this yet let me give you a quick run down. Basically Allen said that Luck needs to get him the ball more because he is the best young tight end in the NFL. So he is saying that he is better than Fleener and he is feeling underutilized so far in his career. Problem is that he has been injured a lot in his career so he hasn’t been on the field much. When Allen is on the field he is a dominate player for sure. He is the best of both worlds in blocking and receiving. However these comments need to be backed up. I’m sure if Luck plays he will try to find Allen as often as he can. If Luck does and Allen does nothing with the opportunity he may have just signed his papers on the first plane out of here when the offseason comes. If he backs it up then he just gained more momentum when it comes time for contract negotiations.
I’m going to say it….for the third week in a row. This is a must win game for the Colts. They cannot afford to go into the Patriots game coming off a loss in their division and possibly feeling very deflated about it, no pun intended…okay, yes it was. Going into week six sitting at 3-2 and coming off a three game win streak will do more for boosting the teams confidence that they can hang with the Patriots next week. The Colts are also going to want to keep their streak alive of consecutive division games won (which would surpass the record the Colts are currently tied for) and I would bet that Andre Johnson is telling this team they have to win. He doesn’t want to come into Houston and get laughed out of the city. I really think the Colts can win and can do it convincingly, but they are going to have battle once again. I hope they have it in them to do it.