Some might consider the games the Indianapolis Colts played during the first eight weeks of the season an extended preseason. After all, Indianapolis have gone 7-0 against teams with a combined record of 17-33, not exactly stellar. But that all changes this weekend in downtown Indianapolis. The Colts go head to head with division opponents the Houston Texans at 1:00 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Many of the NFL’s talking heads are dubbing this contest the most important game in Texans history, and it quite possibly is. But that speaks more of the poor history the Houston franchise has written in their eight years, not the true magnitude of Sunday’s game.
Yes it is an important game, it will be the first time the Indianapolis Colts will play a team with a winning record all season–the Texans are 5-3. With a win, Houston will be three games over .500 for the first time in franchise history and in a position to challenge Indy for the division title. Good for them.
What Indianapolis sports fans all over the state of Indiana need to look for is how the Boys in Blue play against a hot team who is looking playoff worthy. This Sunday’s game also kicks off a tough month for the Colts. After Houston, the Colts invite AFC nemesis New England to town, then travel to Baltimore and finish up with their second game against the Texans. By the end of November we will know were this team truly stands.
This Sunday’s Week 9 action in the Circle City will pit two teams head-to-head that are eerily similar in many of the key positions.
Peyton Manning is second in the NFL with 2227 passing yards this season. Do you know who is #1? The Houston Texans signal caller Matt Schaub. Schaub is leading the league with 2342 passing yards and is less than 800 yards away from setting a career high. Due to injuries in the past, Schaub has never played a full season, but he has been at the helm for all eight Texans games this year and is making the most of it.
A big reason for the success these two signal callers are having in racking up the yards leads us to:
Reggie Wayne is looking Pro Bowl bound yet again this season with 689 receiving yards, good enough for the second highest total in the NFL. Most likely joining Reggie for a Mai-Tai or two in Miami will be wide receiver Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans, who has 697 receiving yards thus far, best in the league. Also, both wideouts will be familiar with the South Beach setting since both played college ball at the University of Miami.
The second leading pass catcher on both teams is a tight end who played football in the Big Ten Conference when they were coeds. Dallas Clark, who played for the University of Iowa, has been a huge target for Peyton all season long down the middle of the field. Matt Schaub’s security blanket has been his tight end Owen Daniels, who played at Wisconsin. Hoosiers everywhere are hoping that Clark has a better game than Daniels; largely in part because Daniels blew out his knee last weekend against the Bills and is done for the year.
While both teams can light it up through the air– the Indianapolis Colts are ranked 1st in overall passing, the Houston Texans are ranked 3rd– they are both equally inept when it comes to running the ball. Houston is 28th in rushing offense while the Colts are 30th in the NFL.
To expand on the two teams run game issues, Houston has one-uped the two back system that is becoming the norm throughout the league, and will utilize a three back platoon on Sunday. It is due to overall failure and not success that the Texans will try this. Steve Slaton had been their starting back much of the year, but after coughing up his fifth fumble last week, Texans coach Gary Kubiak pulled him in favor of Ryan Moats. Moats went on the run for 126 yards in the contest, which marked the first time a Houston back has gone over 100 yards this season. Rounding out this trio is veteran runner Chris Brown.
Indianapolis Colts fans will be more than happy to see Steve Slaton on the sidelines. In the two games these teams played last year, Slaton had 30 carries for 249 yards and three touchdowns. No thank you.
For the Blue Horseshoes the running game has been bad. Last week’s game against the San Fransisco 49ers saw the Colts rush for more than four yards only three times in that contest. Running back Joseph Addai was more impressive throwing the ball than running it. Things could get better for the Colts backfield if rookie runner Donald Brown can go against Houston this weekend. Brown sat out last week’s game due to a sore shoulder.
Brown has practiced most of the week but will still be a game time decision for the Colts. Even with the addition of the rookie, Houston does not seem like the team you can get your run game going against. The Texans have only allowed an average of 58.2 rushing yards a game over their last five starts. With Indianapolis’ inability to get it going on the ground, look for more three and four wide receiver formations from the Colts.
With two such high-powered offenses playing this weekend, it will be interesting to see what these defenses can do. The Colts defenders has given up the least amount of points so far this season in surrendering only 91 points. Houston is middle of the pack with 168 points tallied by opponents.
Dwight Freeney has always enjoyed success against Houston, Dwight tallied three sacks in their last two match ups. If he and Robert Mathis can apply constant pressure to Schaub, the end result could be disastrous for the Texans. Speaking of disastrous, the Colts have been hit hard by the injury bug this past week.
Colts head coach Jim Caldwell announced that linebacker Tyjuan Hagler was place on the injured reserve list Wednesday with a torn biceps muscle, this ends Hagler’s season. To see Indianapolis’ plan to fill the position read this article. Thursday brought more bad news for the Horseshoes when it was announced that Marlin Jackson was placed on IR due to a torn ACL he suffered on the last play of practice.
The oft-injured safety Bob Sanders went and saw Dr. James Andrews regarding an elbow injury suffered during last week’s game and it has just been announced that he will undergo surgery on that elbow. It has not been determined how much time he will miss. What has been determined is that starting corner back Kelvin Hayden will miss up to the next four games with a new knee injury from the 49ers game.
This just in: if the Colts lose one more starter on defense Jim Caldwell will hold open tryouts after the game this Sunday. That’s right, dust off the old pads and helmet, crank up a little Springsteen’s Glory Days and get ready for the call.
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As for Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, his return has been pushed back after arthroscopic surgery was required to clean up loose particles in his knee. Gonzalez, who went down in the first game of the season, was expected to be back on the field by this point in the year but it looks as if the Colts will be cautious and try to have him ready for the playoffs.
Houston’s defense has been playing well, and will need to continue that trend if they are to have any chance this weekend. While Peyton Manning has torched the Texans throughout his career, he has never had to play against such a good Houston linebacking core. Lead by rookie outside linebacker Brian Cushing and middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, this squad can clamp down pretty well and cause problems for even the best quarterbacks. Mario Williams has for the most part always played well against the Colts and has recorded three sacks over the last three games played between the two teams.
So what does it all mean? It means you should be excited to see what your Indianapolis Colts are all about. After a sub-Peyton game last week, expect Manning to show the universe why he is considered one of the greatest of all-time. Also, history is one the Colts side. Indianapolis is 13-1 against Houston since the longhorn looking logos started playing nearly a decade ago.
My prediction is that the Indianapolis Colts will drop at least one of their next four games, but this won’t be it. Even though he doesn’t need to, Peyton Manning most likely feels he has something to prove, and will. The whole country thinks that the Colts are by far the second best undefeated team left in the NFL, that is except for Colts country. A solid performance this weekend could make the nation think twice. Sunday’s game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. and if you can’t make it in person, check it out on CBS WISH TV.
Check back with funcityfinder.com on Monday as we give you a complete Colts wrap up from Sunday’s game. We promise it will be the best part of your Monday, and we don’t break promises.