Seven Things To Watch For: Texans at Colts

Seven Things To Watch For: Texans at Colts

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Seven Things To Watch For: Texans at Colts

What are seven things to watch for as the Colts (3-2) return from their bye week with a divisional matchup against the Houston Texans (4-2) at Lucas Oil Stadium?

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INDIANAPOLISIt could easily be the most impactful home game the Colts play all season long.


The Houston Texans (4-2) are coming to Lucas Oil Stadium for a 1:00 PM kickoff this Sunday afternoon.


Here are 7 things to watch for as the Colts (3-2) return from their bye week:


1. Return Of Darius Leonard


As we mentioned earlier this week, Darius Leonard’s return comes in time for such an important game on the schedule.


It’s important because of the opponent, but Leonard’s presence is so critical against the rare talent of Deshaun Watson.


Leonard in the open field, showing off his run and strike ability, is exactly the type of player you need to try and neutralize the dual-threat nature of the Houston QB.


Given what Watson does so well, is this a game we see some more of rookie Bobby Okereke next to Leonard on passing downs?


2. Major Divisional Implications


A win on Sunday would put the Colts alone atop the AFC South for the first time since November 2015.


As Frank Reich said earlier this week, Houston has been the ‘class of the division’ for the past few years now.


If the Colts can get a win on Sunday it would not only move them into first place in the division, but it would set them up to build a bit of a lead potentially, with a favorable schedule on the horizon.


And if you are feeling really greedy, a win would also move the Colts into a nice early position to possibly nab a playoff bye in 2019.


3. Will Cornerback Injuries Impact Man/Zone Balance?


Both teams are dealing with cornerback injuries this week.


But the Colts’ ones for Kenny Moore (OUT) and Pierre Desir (game-time decision) are a bit more surprising.


How will those injuries impact how much man coverage Matt Eberflus wants to use on Sunday?


Going against Watson, some zone looks might be more beneficial, so eyes are on the quarterback, for if/when he does start to escape the pocket.


4. Slowing Down Watson


Deshaun Watson should be on any early-season MVP list.


The dynamic quarterback is one of the most difficult QBs to defend in the entire league.


For the Colts to have success against Watson, they need for their defensive line to dominate, stay disciplined in their rush lanes/read option assignments and find the right balance in the cover game to disrupt timing.


Watson was sacked 15 times in 3 games against the Colts last year (with Kenny Moore used as an efffective slot blitzer). But Watson hasn’t been sacked in the past two games.


He also has 5 rushing touchdowns in 2019, and these aren’t your QB sneak variety scores.


5. Hopkins In Critical Moments


The Texans bring a much deeper skill group to the table on Sunday afternoon.


But they still have one of the best wide receivers in all of football in DeAndre Hopkins.


In the game’s most critical moments, the Texans will turn to their All-Pro wideout.


In December and January wins over the Texans last season, the Colts were outstanding against Hopkins. While Houston has other weapons in this meeting, you must have a plan for No. 10 in white.


6. Attack Their Weaknesses


Even without seeing the injury report this week, many would call the Houston offensive line and secondary the weaker spots on the team.


Well, both of those position groups are also dealing with some injuries.


Right tackle Tytus Howard will miss Sunday’s game. And starting cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Johnathan Joseph have both been limited in practice this week and are questionable.


The Colts should be salivating about attacking these position groups on Sunday.


7. T.Y. Hilton: Player/Owner


T.Y. Hilton is a player for the Indianapolis Colts, and he has absolutely owned the Houston Texans throughout his career.


In 15 career games against the Texans, Hilton has 81 grabs for 1,530 yards (18.9 yards per catch) and 9 touchdowns.


But Hilton has been much more potent in road games against Houston (8 games: 46 catches, 1,018 yards, 22.13 per reception, 7 TDs), compared to the home ones (7 games: 35 catches, 512 yards, 14.63 per reception, 2 TDs).


Hilton hasn’t had a 100-yard outing in his last 7 games, but a banged-up Houston cornerback bunch should have The Ghost eager to get back to work.


Bowen’s Prediction: Colts, 30-27. This might be the most difficult game to predict in the 2019 season. Vegas has the Colts as a 1-point favorite, and this game definitely has a ‘pick em’ feel to it. Why I think the Colts will pull it out at home comes down to them taking advantage of where Houston has some weakness---the offensive line and secondary. It’s a must for the Colts defensive line to win the battle up front, if they want to hold Houston under the 30-point mark. I think having the bye week actually helped the psyche of the Colts to come back down to earth a bit, whereas the Texans might have a little hangover from such a big win over the Chiefs. Again, this is such a tough one to pick, but I’ll go with the Colts at home getting the very important Week 7 win.

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