The Indianapolis Colts travel to Houston, Texas for the season opener for the second straight season.
This will be the first time though since December 21st, 1997 that someone other than Peyton Manning will be starting under center for the Colts. Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback of that game that the Colts lost 39-28 to Minnesota.
The Manning story has been the biggest story of the week leading up to the game.
The Houston Texans could be without their leading rusher from last season, Arian Foster. Foster is listed as a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury. Foster rushed for a team record 231 yards and three touchdowns in the season opening game against the Colts last season.
Everyone is counting the Colts out not just for this game, but for the season. I'm sorry but I don't see it.
Everyone listens to talking heads on networks talking about how small the Colts offensive line is, how bad the defense is, and how the loss of Peyton is detrimental.
How's this for something to chew on: The Colts offensive line is the biggest line they've had in quite a few years. Yeah, they're inexperienced, but they're NFL athletes. They will be fine.
The defense isn't as bad as it seems. They still have Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Gary Brackett and Antoine Bethea. Last I checked Peyton Manning doesn't control the defense.
Here's a key stat line that people forget: Dwight Freeney has 94 sacks and 41 forced fumbles since 2002. That's the most in the NFL in both categories.
The last point about Peyton being gone and the season is over is absolutely insane.
I'll be the first to admit no one can replace Manning's talent. No one.
But the Colts still have Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon to throw to. Defenses can't stop all of them.
I expect a big season out of Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Wayne is in a contract year and is seeking his fourth consecutive game with a touchdown against the Texans. Clark is going to be a safety valve and make the out-routes key.
If Kerry Collins is accurate in their SYSTEM they can still win.
Here's some more food for thought: Kerry Collins is 111 yards away from passing Joe Montana for 10th all-time in passing yards. His 40,441 passing yards don't come as a fluke, and passing Montana who many consider the greatest quarterback ever is a huge accomplishment.
Also, the Texans defense ranked 32nd out of 32 teams against the pass last year. If Collins is going to get a start against a worse pass defense, please tell me who it is.
The Colts have 34 wins in road openers which is most of any AFC team.
If the line holds up and with the addition of Gronkowski as a fullback, look for Joseph Addai to have a decent day. Addai is from the Houston area and his 632 rushing yards and six touchdowns against the Texans is the most against any opponent.
Also keep this stat in mind, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has a dismal 16-10 all-time record as a starter in Reliant Stadium.
Indianapolis leads 16-2
Indianapolis 30, Houston 17 on November 1st, 2010
Indianapolis: Out–Peyton Manning; Questionable–S Antoine Bethea (hamstring), WR Austin Collie (foot), WR Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring), DT Drake Nevis (foot), WR Blair White (back)
Houston: Out—CB Roc Carmichael; Questionable—RB Arian Foster; Probable—G Antoine Caldwell (ankle), DT Earl Mitchell (knee), CB Glover Quin (head), LB Brooks Reed (wrist), LB DeMeco Ryans (elbow, ankle), LS Jonathan Weeks (ankle), LB Mario Williams (groin, achilles)
1:00 P.M. on CBS at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas
Play-by-play: Greg Gumbel
Analyst: Dan Dierdorf
I honestly think the Colts can still compete in this game. Stopping the run will be a huge key.
I still think Andre Johnson will have a big day for Houston. The Colts corners play way too far off of the receivers and Johnson will eat them alive.
But if the Colts can still move the ball around on offense they will be in a good position.
The Texans are falling into dangerous territory in overlooking the Colts now. Usually the Texans proclaim this is their Super Bowl with the Colts coming to town. This year they're overlooking the Colts thinking they will win by at least 20 and are holding high hopes.
If the Colts can jump up early, the air will be taken out of the stadium more than ever before.
I think this game will be a challenge still for Indianapolis, but I'll go on a limb and predict an early upset.
Indianapolis 24, Houston 20