3TFO: Texans @ Colts, Week 15
This AFC South battle finds the 8-5 Colts taking on the 2-11 Houston Texan. The Colts did win this division last week, but did so in the most lackluster way possible in a shoot-out loss to the Bengals (if Cincinnati had tackled better it would’ve been an obvious blowout). Meanwhile, the Texans lost yet another game to the Jacksonville Jaguars, in prime time, that finally cost head coach Gary Kubiak his job. Case Keenum is expected to start despite Matt Schaub leading a near-comeback last week.
Keenum getting the nod is a good thing for the Texans, as he nearly led an upset over Indy in the first meeting between these two squads in Week 9 on Sunday Night Football. The Texans led 21-3 at halftime, but Andrew Luck led a furious comeback, which has happened to this disappointing Houston team too often this year.
With a home wild card game set in stone, can the Colts still sweep their division rivals?
Robert Mathis vs. Duane Brown
Despite many of his teammates struggling throughout the year, veteran Robert Mathis has continued his good career as a fearsome pass rusher. He leads the league with 15 sacks (remember we don’t cite ‘half sacks’), and has the third-best pass-rushing grade among his 3-4 OLB peers. However, in his first meeting with Houston this year, he was able to produce only three hurries, two of which were unblocked. More worrisome perhaps was his performance last week against the Bengals, where he was completely shut out on the stat sheet.
Duane Brown is also arguably one of the best in the league at his position, left tackle. Brown, despite the many other issues plaguing the Texans, has been doing his job — he has two games where he allowed no pressure (one being the first meeting with the Colts) and three games where he allowed only a single pressure. However, like Mathis, he had a down performance last week. In prime time at Jacksonville he surrendered seven total pressures (including a pair of sacks and hits). Who wins this rematch may play a large role in the victor of this contest.
Andre Johnson vs. Colts Secondary
Despite being on the worst team in the league at this late point (no other squad has only a pair of wins) and dealing with a musical-chairs QB situation in several games, the reliable Andre Johnson is still leaving his mark on the year. Right now the long-tenured Texan owns the highest ‘Pass’ (aka Receiving) grade among his fellow wide receivers, right in front of Calvin Johnson. Andre only has five TD catches on the year, but two were at the expense of solid shadow CB Patrick Peterson, and the other three were against this maligned Colts defense. That first meeting was by far his best game of the year with 229 yards to go with his hat-trick, and he caught passes in the coverage of six different Indy defenders. CBs Vontae Davis (who conceded two of the TDs) and Darius Butler were the biggest culprits, but safety Antoine Bethea was also culpable for a 41-yard score.
Can the Colts at least contain Andre Johnson this time? Davis, arguably there best CB, has been hit-or-miss this year, but still has a well above-average coverage grade helped by his one interception and nine passes defensed. Yet, since that Week 9 game, he’s given up four more scores, with eight total on his resume this season. Journeyman former second-rounder Butler has been awful in the last two games, along with giving up a pair of TD passes. Cassius Vaughn, who has been forced into significantly more playing time after Greg Toler’s injury vs. Denver, has also been a liability outside of one good game against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Long-tenured Colt safety Bethea has recovered a bit from a horrible four-game stretch (which included the first Houston game), but should still expect to see plenty of work this week. And LaRon Landry, who hasn’t been tested as often as you might expect, had by far his worst coverage grade on the year against Houston, though he still has the second-best grade on this unit in this area.
Protecting Andrew Luck
As we are always saying, you can’t compare grades among different positions. However, it’s impossible to ignore former Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and his +98.7 overall grade, which is by far the best of any position. He ‘only’ has 10 sacks, but also has 31 QB knockdowns, which doesn’t include plays negated by penalty. Watt beat more than half of the offensive line for his sack, four hits and three hurries in the last meeting. RT Gosher Cherilus and RG Mike McGlynn suffered the brunt of Watt’s assault.
McGlynn and LG Hugh Thornton have been the weakest links in pass protection for the Colts, though Joe Reitz replaced an injured Thornton last week against the Bengals and surrendered only one hurry as the Colts were often playing catch up. Otherwise, this unit only allowed another hurry and two hits in that contest while Cherilus was perfect, albeit against a Geno Atkins-less defense. Thornton is expected to be back for Sunday, but C Samson Satele is now dealing with an injury and may force some more re-arranging along this below-average line. Can this unit replicate their solid protection from last week against Watt?
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