3TFO: Colts @ Texans, Week 15
Just one year after a miserable 2-14 season, the Indianapolis Colts have surprised pretty much everyone with their success in the first season of the post-Peyton era. After Houston’s demoralizing loss on Monday night, Indianapolis can now claim the AFC South title by winning their final three games. Two of these three remaining games will come against Houston, which will give the Colts the opportunity to prove they belong among the AFC’s elite.
The Texans were thoroughly embarrassed on Monday night in Foxborough, but the team still holds the AFC’s best record. Houston will be looking for a better showing from their offense from here on out — the team ranks fourth in points scored (28.1/game), but was held to just 14 last week. It will be interesting to see how the Texans respond to Monday’s beatdown. Hopefully for the Texans (and their fans), the loss will serve as motivation to play their best football and compete for a Super Bowl berth. Otherwise, an early exit from the postseason is likely in their future.
JJ Watt vs. Mike McGlynn and Winston Justice
There is not much left to say about JJ Watt this season, as his dominance has been well documented. He has graded positively in every single game in 2012, and has showed no signs of slowing down. Watt leads all 3-4 defensive ends both in Run Stop Percentage (17.6), and Pass Rushing Productivity (10.3), proving that he is in a class of his own. Add in the ridiculous 14 batted passes, and you would be hard pressed to find a more complete defender at any position.
With a cumulative Pass Blocking Efficiency of 74.0, the Colts have protected their quarterback better than just two other teams. Right guard Mike McGlynn and right tackle Winston Justice will be matched up against Watt on Sunday, which could spell trouble for Andrew Luck. McGlynn has been consistently poor this season, both as a run blocker (-11.1) and in pass protection (32 pressures allowed is second-most among guards). Justice enjoyed a strong start to the year as a pass protector, but has struggled since Week 6. His PBE of 94.3 ranks near the middle of the pack (35th among qualifying tackles), but all but two of the 33 pressures that he has surrendered have come since that Week 6 game against the Jets. Given McGlynn’s track record, Luck will be in for a long day if Justice continues to struggle.
Reggie Wayne vs. Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne has enjoyed yet another outstanding year in Indianapolis, his first catching passes from Luck. His 2.08 Yards per Route Run places him in the upper echelon of wide receivers, and he has been one of the league’s most productive receivers on deep passes (14 receptions on passes thrown 20+ yards). Wayne is the Colts’ sole receiving threat, and he ranks second in the league in targets. His best attribute is his dependability: He has dropped only six of 100 catchable balls this season.
The unenviable task of covering Wayne will fall on cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. Jackson has been one of the league’s top corners this season. He has allowed a reception just once every 15 coverage snaps, second best among all cornerbacks. He has allowed just 1.01 Yards per Coverage Snap, and intercepted four passes. Joseph has missed some time in recent weeks because of injury, but he has been solid as well (75.5 QB rating against). The pair will have to continue their strong play on Sunday, especially when lined up across from Wayne.
Andre Johnson vs. Cassius Vaughn
Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is another former Miami Hurricanes receiver that is enjoying an outstanding season. His YpRR of 2.84 is second-best among wideouts. Johnson is clearly Matt Schaub’s top target, and for good reason: Schaub has a stellar QB rating of 95.5 when looking for Johnson. With just seven drops and a 7.87 Drop Rate in 2012, Johnson continues to prove he is one of the most reliable pass catchers in the NFL.
Indianapolis cornerback Cassius Vaughn must be dreading his pending battle against Johnson. Vaughn has been one of the least effective cornerbacks throughout 2012. Only one corner has been targeted more often than Vaughn (once every 4.6 coverage snaps), and he has allowed a reception once every 7.5 coverage snaps, fourth-worst among qualifying CB’s. Given that opposing quarterbacks have a 95.6 rating when throwing at him, Vaughn is clearly overmatched this week against one of the NFL’s elite receivers.