5 Predictions for Houston Texans Thursday Night Tilt vs. Indianapolis Colts
In a season that seems to see these two teams with their roles from the past decade reversed, the entire nation gets to see the game from home as the Houston Texans claim their first and only nationally televised contest of the 2011 campaign.
With the Indianapolis Colts coming off of their first win of the season on Sunday and the Texans dropping their first contest since mid-October, I expect this match-up to be a little different than what most would have predicted even a few weeks ago.
Houston has begun to struggle on offense and teams seem to be figuring out how to slow down the pass rush that has been dominant all season. With a fifth-round rookie quarterback under center coming off of his worst career game as a pro, anything is possible in this game, regardless of record. But here are five predictions that I'll make prior to Thursday's kickoff.
T.J. Yates Will Have a Bounce Back Game
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After a fairy tale beginning to his NFL career, T.J. Yates was brought back to reality in a cruel way this past Sunday against the Panthers. A ton of check downs, two interceptions, a pair of sacks and a ton of poor decisions made it a Sunday Yates won't soon forget. But I think he will be able to move on from it.
The quarterback is always going to get all the credit for a win and all the blame for a loss, but this past Sunday was a collective effort of the entire team just laying an egg in front of the home crowd.
Yates isn't going to light the Colts secondary up for 300-plus yards or anything, especially with Andre Johnson likely out again, but I am expecting a decent 230-yard and a touchdown type of game for him.
The one positive that came out of the beat down at the hands of Carolina last Sunday was that it will curb the expectations of Yates going forward. Remember, as remarkable as he has played he is still a rookie that was taken late in the draft. He has the tools and talent, but he is going to make those rookie mistakes. But he'll make bigger plays than mistakes this week.
The Texans Pass Rush Will Return
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You know that this defense has raised Texans fan's expectations since we are wondering what is wrong with the pass rush after compiling "only" two sacks last week against the fleet-footed Cam Newton.
Since Mario Williams went down with the season-ending pectoral injury, Antonio Smith became the lucky inheritor of the double teams that Mario usually gets. So it is no coincidence that he hasn't even come close to bringing the opposing quarterback down since the departure of Super Mario.
The one beneficiary of this has been Connor Barwin, who went over the double digit mark in sacks last week. With J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith opening lanes for him and Brooks Reed, both have capitalized with huge numbers. But the consistent pass rush on seemingly every play has slowed down since the bye week. What better remedy than to be going against former Texans backup quarterback, Dan Orlovsky.
Orlovsky has played better than Curtis Painter thus far, but that isn't really saying much. Sure, he got his first win last week, but that Titans team is finally coming apart at the seams and their pass rush isn't comparable to what the Texans run out there each week. Expect to see Houston getting after Orlovsky and for Antonio to finally snap his dry spell.
The Colts Will Get Consistent Pressure on Yates
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There is no denying that the Colts defense has been sub-par in 2011. Currently ranked 29th in the league and giving up a staggering 5.7 yards per play, the defense is not anything to brag about if you're a Colts fan. But the fact remains that they still have two of the best edge rushers in the entire NFL in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
The duo has accumulated 14 sacks and three forced fumbles so far this season, as well as still having the ability to take a quarterback out of the game on any given play. This alone is reason enough to think that Yates and the Texans aren't going to be slinging the ball over the field this Thursday. But there is another reason.
After the drumming that Houston gave the Colts in Week 1, I expect them to be a little more fired up than they might have shown since then. You always get up for a division game—as last week against the Titans showed—and I expect that to happen again Thursday, regardless of the standings in the AFC South.
The Texans Will Top 200 Yards on the Ground
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With the pass rush predicted as being consistent, I expect the Texans to counter with their usual method of running the ball down the Colts throat. Arian Foster has been known to have a game or two in his career where he fared pretty decently against the Colts run defense, if I recall correctly.
The biggest weakness for the Colts is their run defense, just as it has been for a handful of years now. Even if they stack the box, I fully expect to see a healthy dose of the Foster & Tate combo racking up the yardage and moving the chains.
The Colts are giving up 139 yards per contest on the ground and the last time they faced a stout running combo (Carolina) they surrendered 201 yards rushing. I have a hard time believing that Houston can't match that output. I also see no way that they don't have 45-plus attempts at it.
The Colts Will Hang Tough Until the 3rd Quarter
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As I said earlier, a division game is always going to amp a team up a little more than usual. I see no scenario in which the Colts simply mail it in against the team that they turned their AFC South crown over to this season. They may not be able to keep them out of the playoffs, but they can certainly play spoiler to the Texans' first-round bye hopes.
I predict a tight first half that maybe even sees the Colts headed into the locker room with a marginal lead. But I think that is where it stops.
Dan Orlovsky will try to make too many plays after the running game can't get going and it will lead to a few mistakes that will result in points on the other end of the field. Once Houston goes up by two scores, it's safe to say that the Colts don't have the horses to make a comeback.
I predict a Texans victory by 14 points that will see them not only stay in the hunt for that first-round bye, but also earn them their first victory in Indianapolis in their short franchise history. Manning or no Manning, I'll take it.