Colts at Texans: Breaking Down the Numbers


The Indianapolis Colts head to Houston to face the Texans on a short week. This is the fourth year in a row that the Colts have had a road Thursday night game (something coach Chuck Pagano is not happy with). The Colts recently brought their record up to 2-2 thanks to wins over AFC South foes, and have a chance to take a stranglehold on the division with another win.

The Texans (1-3) have struggled this season and have only managed to come away with a win when facing the worst team in the NFL from 2014, the Buccaneers. Their first two losses of the season (home vs Chiefs and at Panthers) were both by a touchdown. Late rallies in both games fell short in both games. The Texans were waxed by the Falcons this past Sunday, 48-21.

The Texans are desperate for a win if there is any hope of salvaging the season while the Colts want to extend their win streak before the schedule gets a lot tougher (read: Patriots).

Here’s what the numbers say about this week’s opponent.

The Texans on Offense

6th in Yardage (6th in passing, 21st rushing)

19th in scoring with 19.3 points per game

25th in efficiency (28th passing, 21st rushing)

What does this mean? The Texans are racking up passing yards but not finishing drives with points. They’ve turned the ball over eight times (four interceptions, four fumbles) which, while better than the Colts (dead last) ties them for 29th in the league in giveaways. The Texans are also struggling on third down, converting just under 35 percent of their attempts.

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It certainly doesn’t help that Arian Foster has played just one game, and was extremely limited last week. He’s been out with a groin injury, but will likely see his workload increase against the Colts. A reliable run game might be just what the Texans need as Ryan Mallett (and Brian Hoyer) simply haven’t been able to carry the team. It looks like Mallett would have been benched, were it not for the short turnaround between games.

DeAndre Hopkins is struggling to adjust to being the true number one receiver, currently ranking 40th in the NFL in value per play (but is 25th in overall value). A lot of this is the poor play from the quarterbacks, but that is par for the course for the Texans. Hopkins is going to have to shoulder a lot of the receiving burden as Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington are out.

What It Means for the Colts on Defense

The Colts will likely crowd the line of scrimmage and dare Mallett to beat them with his arm. That would probably be a good strategy, if the defense wasn’t nearly completely banged up. There is a good chance Vontae Davis doesn’t play (letting Hopkins run free) and Henry Anderson might not take the field either (which hurts the team’s run defense).

This is the kind of opponent that the Colts excelled against last season. An inferior QB they don’t fear, which allows the defense to take more risks. This is a good game for the Colts to figure out an effective pass rush strategy (something they will desperately need in another week).

The Texans on Defense

11th in Yardage (11th vs pass, 22nd vs run)

26th in Points Allowed with 27 Points per Game

13th in Efficiency (15th vs pass, 17th vs run)

Yardage is always a misleading stat, but the points allowed is troubling. It certainly doesn’t help that the offense has turned the ball over a lot and given opponents a short field to work with.  The Texans also struggle to get out of their own way as they rank 21st in defensive penalties, with 281 yards lost. They also have just two takeaways all season.

If there is a bright point defensively, it is on third downs where the Texans are 4th in the NFL. Opponents convert just 31.5 percent of the time. The Texans have a good defense, but seem to face short fields on suffer penalties that give up yards.

It also doesn’t help that J.J. Watt isn’t quite the force he was in 2014. He has four sacks, but the rest of the team isn’t generating pressure. Last season, Watt attracted so much attention (and still made plays) that it freed up space for others on the defense. That hasn’t been the case in 2014.

What it Means for the Colts on Offense

That depends on who is playing QB for the Colts and the health of said QB. Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton have historically dominated the Texans, especially in Houston. Hilton has 19 receptions for 422 yards and five touchdowns in three career games in Houston.

In last seasons game in Houston, the Colts turned a 24-0 first quarter into a dogfight by forgetting to block Watt with more than one player. The scheme went from two (or three) blockers down to a tight end attempting to block Watt by the end of the night. It wasn’t effective, and nearly cost the Colts the game (thankfully Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t very good at game winning drives).

The Texans have a solid secondary, but really struggle to defend tight ends and running backs. Luckily, the Colts will get Dwayne Allen back from injury. Unluckily, Frank Gore isn’t a great pass catcher. The tight ends will definitely get their fair share of looks tonight, and Gore will have an opportunity to make up for his mistakes on Sunday.

Even if Luck does play, the Colts will want to run the ball more and limit the number of attempts. They can’t afford to fall into a hole early as it doesn’t sound like Luck has his normal arm strength. If Matt Hasselbeck plays, the odds of winning drop like a rock.