HOUSTON VS INDIANAPOLIS PREVIEW Can we please have a mulligan for last week (or 5 for that matter). So far this season we've either been in a winning or losing streak. After losing 4 straight, we won 3 in a row, and now have found ourselves being defeated the past 2 weeks. It could've (and should've) been different the beginning few weeks, and this week will be our chance to get revenge on Indianapolis. No need to re-live the past after our 21 point collapse from week 5 however. After a rocky and unusual start to the season, the Colts are starting to get back on track and have done so the past 2 weeks at a time when we seem to be falling apart. So the question is can we get back on track and exact revenge for the improbable comeback they pulled on us in week 5 or are they too far along for us to contend? Houston's Running Game vs. Indianapolis' Run D: Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster are the starting DTs for our game. An interesting fact is that both of them were collegiate DEs who were recently converted to DT. Dawson spent time at DE before the release of Ed Johnson motivated the position change. Foster was considered a potential 3-4 DE so the switch to DT has been a bit more natural for him. At linebacker is Clint Sessions, Freddy Kiaho, and Gary Brackett. Sessions and Kiaho are relatively young and neither of them have a full year of starting experience under their belt. Brackett is the veteran of the group and has been a leading tackler for the Colts for 4 seasons now. He also is the LB that always seems to be in position to make plays. You can’t forget about the return of Bob Sanders to the lineup either as he loves to come up and make big hits in the backfield. As far as the Texans, I really like the match up. Our zone blocking scheme only seems to work when we go against quicker defenses where we don’t have to worry about getting overpowered. I don’t feel we’ll be effective trying to get to the edge, but more so going in the middle and giving Slaton room to run. If we can get him and Green going, it will be a huge boost. Houston’s Passing Game vs. Indianapolis’ Pass D: Oh Sage Rosenfels, what can be said that hasn’t already been said? While the first game against Indy seemed tumultuous, Sage has a bit of an advantage this week. Kelvin Hayden, the starting CB is most likely out for this week. Marlon Jackson is out for the season as well leaving Tim Jennings and the second year CB Dante Hughes. Jennings has been starting for a few weeks now and has filled in nicely picking off 2 passes and showing a willingness to come up in run support. Hughes on the other hand has limited experience. Coming out of college, he was one of the NCAA leaders in INTs during his senior season, but speed concerns let him slip a few rounds. At safety will be Bob Sanders and Melvin Bullitt. Sanders, finally back from injury, has let his presence be known on the field and is showing why he was the defensive player of the year. Bullitt is versatile in the secondary and actually leads the team in INTs this season (including picking off Sage during our last drive). The main pass rush threat will be Dwight Freeney, who’s already gotten a sack against Duane Brown. Robert Mathis is also a threat coming off the edge, but is questionable this week. They could arguably the quickest DE combo in the NFL. For Houston, we can’t let Indy get to Sage. I have some faith that Rosenfels can be effective, but without time he’ll do nothing but force passes into the zone. Andre Johnson should have a big game as should Owen Daniels who I feel is a mis-match against the Colts LBs. Indianapolis' Running Game vs. Houston's Run D: While the Colts have never had an overly dominant running game, this season has been a letdown for them. Over the past few years they've finished on average around 17th in the league in rushing, but are currently sitting in dead last this season so far. While Addai's numbers have dropped off, it's unfair to blame the woeful running game completely on him (although he hasn’t been healthy all season long). The Colts this season have only 2 veteran linemen on the starting roster and have had several different starters in throughout the season. Jeff Saturday is still one of the best centers in the NFL and Ryan Diem has been consistent at RT. Ugoh is the LT and is finally healthy after a few weeks on the injury report. Charles Johnson and Mike Pollack finalize the line at the guard spots. Johnson is a second year starter while Pollack is a rookie starter from Arizona State where he started at center. Since I can remember, one of the Colts’ best run plays has been a sweep where they get everyone outside towards the corner and let the RB get out in the open. However, they’ve been forced to run more inside because of injuries instead of getting Addai on the outside which has lead to some of the off-production. I’ve also noticed more defenders in the backfield stopping Addai from getting going. If we can force Indy to run the ball inside and not let them get to the corner I feel we can keep them from beating us on the ground. Indianapolis' Passing Game vs. Houston's Pass D: We all have learned who Peyton Manning is the hard way throughout the years. He has constantly torched us over and over again. In his lifetime against the Texans, he's thrown 31 TDs with only 5 INTs. Earlier this season he was 25 of 34 for 247 yards with 2 TDs and 1INT. He has hit his hot streak so to speak the past few games. As far as his targets go, it's still the same 4 threats known as Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzales, Dallas Clark, and Marvin Harrison. Wayne has been the constant playmaker of the bunch so far making great catches and being able to make the most out of nothing. Gonzales has slowly taken over #2 WR duties although he works great in the slot as well because of his quickness. Harrison has seen his numbers decline a bit since last season's injury, but has proven so far this season that given the chance he can still be a threat if ignored. While Clark is a TE, it's unfair to look at him as such in the receiving game because of how much he can do. He can line up in the slot, inside, and in the backfield at will. He's a definite mismatch for our linebackers with Diles out for the season. While the Colts offensive line may be one of the worst at run blocking, they have only allowed 11 sacks all season (including holding Pittsburgh to their second lowest sack total this season). For us, we can't make mistakes both in pass rushing and in the secondary. Mario needs to provide pressure all game, but so does at least 1 or 2 others. Our LBs need to be ready over the middle and deep for the underneath routes and vertical routes they throw at us. And most importantly our corners need to be ready for the one on one situation when the deep ball is thrown. POSITION BATTLE QB Advantage: INDY RB Advantage: HOUSTON WR Advantage: INDY TE Advantage: PUSH OL Advantage: PUSH DL Advantage: PUSH LB Advantage: INDY CB Advantage: HOUSTON S Advantage: INDY K/P Advantage: HOUSTON RET Advantage: HOUSTON NOTABLE INJURIES Amobi Okoye, DT (ankle) Morlon Greenwood, OLB (fibula) Antoine Bethea, FS (ankle) Anthony Gonzalez, WR (ankle) Kelvin Hayden, CB (hamstring) Robert Mathis, DE (foot) Reggie Wayne, WR (ankle) ***all the above players have not participated in practice as of Thursday, November 13th X FACTOR OF THE GAME: STEVE SLATON/AHMAN GREEN, RB I was tempted to put Sage back in here for obvious reasons, but decided to mix it up. I picked Slaton and Green because I feel we will be severely dependent on our running game this week if we want to win. When you look at successful games we’ve had running the ball this season, two points always seem to come up: it’s against 4-3 defenses and there are no overpowering or oversized DTs in the middle. Seeing as how Indy’s starting tackles are both DE size and they run a 4-3, I feel we can have some success on the ground. With both healthy and ready to go, I feel this is their game to take over. It also doesn’t hurt that we’d all trust the ball in Slaton and Green’s hands over Rosenfels. KEY FACTORS TO THE GAME 1) Quit turning the ball over. After 3 weeks where we looked better in that aspect, we give Minnesota the ball 3 times, 2 of which were in the red zone. If we want to have a chance against Indy, we need to quit giving the other team the ball and leaving points up on the board. So many of our games would’ve been completely different if we would of not made the costly mistakes. In fact, it’s safe to say that a decent amount of our games would be different if we could of avoided giving the team the other ball. With our defense banged up as well, it’s an even bigger incentive so our defense has a fighting chance this week. And yes, this is basically copy and pasted from last week and will continue to be until we fix this serious problem. 2) Control the clock and the scoreboard. Sounds simple enough, but it really has huge implications. A lot of this ties in with the first key factor in that the solution to the situations is to run the ball. We need to control the clock to let our defense rest as well as keep their offense off the field. More importantly it will also allow us to control the scoreboard and not let Indy jump out in front. Whenever we play Indy and get lazy on defense, their offense tends to go crazy and rack up the touchdowns. As a result, it forces us to play more reckless and turn the ball over. With Sage as our QB, we need to keep the game close so that he isn’t forced to try and do something he shouldn’t be. We all remember what happened last time and know what we need to do to prevent the same thing from happening.