And so it begins, another season of NFL football and another season filled with uncanny optimism. Up until this point, weve only had hints of how the Texans will perform in the regular season and weve seen both the good (Dallas) and the bad (New Orleans) which leads us to believe that as fans were in for yet another wild ride. Just like the past 2 seasons when they played two playoff teams opening weekend, the Texans will be tested right out of the gates against Indianapolis Colts. Houston knows how to play with the Colts and always makes a game out of it, but they never know how to win always falling tragically either by their own faults or at the greatness of Peyton Manning. However, this is a new season and everyone is undefeated. Can the Texans get off to a fast start against a team theyre 1-15 against? Houstons Running Game vs. Indys Run D: The Colts run defense has never really been one of the best in the league. Despite all this, they still find ways to win games by making you pass. Freeney and Mathis always seem to be coming up field so to counter this Indy has gotten bigger in the middle with Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir. Johnson is a bit sluggish and more of a traditional NT while Muir can move around and is pretty athletic for his size. The Colts linebackers have some consistency going for them as they have all 3 starters returning this season. Brackett will man the middle again and is the leader of the group. Clint Sessions will start at WLB and is the most explosive of the group. He lead the team in tackles and excels in pass coverage. Phillip Wheeler is athletic, but still trying to find his place on the defense. He is a solid player though and shouldnt be overlooked. Houston normally struggles with massive defensive lines or 3-4 fronts so having an athletic offensive line to combat the Colts quick front 4 should be a solid matchup for us. Foster seems to have much better vision than Slaton and makes quicker decisions which will be a huge benefit against the speedy Colts. We have to get the run game going if we want to be a much more balanced offense and keep the Colts off guard. Houstons Passing Game vs. Indys Pass D: Bad news for the Texans, Bob Sanders is back and healthy which is automatically a boost to their secondary. If he can return to form or at least close to it, the Colts secondary just became a lot tougher. Not only that, but the Colts have 3 starting caliber CBs now in Kelvin Hayden, Jacob Lacey, and Jerraud Powers. Hayden has been around for several years and is the veteran of the group. Powers and Lacey are both second year players who more than stepped up their rookie years (Powers picked off Schaub). Rounding out the secondary is free safety Antoine Bethea. He has great awareness and is athletic enough to make plays downfield. Hes also been the most consistent player for the Colts secondary the past few years missing a total of 4 games in 4 years. Of course, their pass defense isnt complete without mentioning Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Both Freeney and Mathis are undersized but extremely quick and athletic; they combined for 23 sacks last season. For Houston, they need to mix up the playcalling to avoid obvious passing situations. If Mathis and Freeney know the pass is coming, it could spell disaster. Considering Schaub usually throws his INTs to Colts linebackers, he needs to read the zone blitz and not be afraid to check the ball down to Foster. Johnson shouldnt struggle getting in a rhythm, but either Walter or Daniels will need to step up over the middle. Indys Running Game vs. Houstons Run D: If the Colts have one area that they need to improve on, its their running game. Joseph Addais stats have slowly gone downhill although he is good at finding the end zone when the Colts get into the red zone. Hes spent too much time dancing around instead of hitting the hole with authority. Donald Brown is the other RB who will see time and he didnt have the rookie season many were expecting. He starred at UConn, but failed to average over 4 YPC last season. Hes still learning the offense so its unseen if he will be a major factor week 1. The biggest blow to the Colts running game is the loss of Jeff Saturday to injury. He wont make or break the Colts offensive line, but hes definitely the heart and soul of it and he is potentially going to miss week 1. Not only that, but Charlie Johnson might also be out week 1. This shouldnt prevent Indy from trying their outside runs and sweeps like they normally run. For Houston, this should be the easy part. The Colts last season easily preferred the air attack against Houston over running the ball. They averaged right at 4 YPC. The best plan for Houston will be to make the running game non-existent. If they can do this, they can focus more on the passing game and keep Indy in 3rd and long. Indys Passing Game vs. Houstons Pass D: Were all fully aware of the Colts passing game as is the rest of the NFL. Peyton Manning is amazing and makes defenses pay whether it be on a short 5 yard screen or a deep post route. Not only do the Colts have more experience now with their young WRs, but they also get Anthony Gonzalez back from injury (not like they needed him). It all starts with Reggie Wayne, who has been Mannings go to WR for years. Equally as important is Dallas Clark who is a mismatch for just about any defensive player. He constantly beat Brian Cushing last season and will look to do the same against Diles/Adibi. Next in line at WR is Pierre Garcon followed by Austin Collie. Garcon proved to be a consistent deep threat while Collie was deadly over the middle filling in for Anthony Gonzalez. This all of course isnt including Addai who they always will dump the ball off to if in trouble. The bad news is there really isnt a set way on how to stop the Colts passing attack; the best you can hope for is to slow them down or keep their offense off the field completely. For Houston, the best bet will be to get in Mannings face and make them throw the ball quickly. A rookie will be on Wayne and Diles, Adibi, or Pollard will face up against Clark (neither matchup favors us). To offset our inexperience in the second, Houston must get pressure every passing down. If not, Manning will expose them. POSITION BATTLE QB Advantage: INDIANAPOLIS RB Advantage: PUSH WR Advantage: PUSH TE Advantage: INDIANAPOLIS OL Advantage: INDIANAPOLIS DL Advantage: INDIANAPOLIS LB Advantage: PUSH CB Advantage: INDIANAPOLIS S Advantage: INDIANAPOLIS K/P Advantage: INDIANAPOLIS RET Advantage: HOUSTON X-FACTOR: Arian Foster, RB Im taking this one from the 2006 win over the Colts in which Ron Dayne carried the load for our team. We know Peyton Manning and the Colts offense is going to score points. However, if we can get a lead and have Foster wear down the Colts defense much like Dayne did, we can keep Manning off the field and hopefully lower the odds of turning the ball over. Foster has looked great in preseason and always seems to get as many yards as possible by finishing off his runs. Schaub had to throw over 40 times against the Colts last season so our ability to keep it on the ground and potentially pound out a win will be critical. KEYS TO THE GAME 1) Get pressure on Peyton Manning. For as long as we play the Colts, this will be on here. Manning rarely gets pressured and because of this he always gets the opportunity to gash every defense he plays. When he does get sacked and pressured, he does get out of rhythm and he will make mistakes from time to time. It takes a lot to rattle Manning though so its something that Houston needs to stick with. At the very least, pressuring him gives him less time to try and go deep on our young secondary. 2) Keep the Colts offense off the field. This was the blueprint to the Texans victory from 2006 which has stuck in my mind all this time. The Texans had long, lengthy drives that lasted almost half of a quarter and in turn, Peyton could do nothing. If Houston lets him in the game, he will make them pay. If hes on the sidelines, he cant score points and theres also an outside chance he could go cold. It also cant hurt to wear down the Colts in case the game comes down to the end. 3) Avoid turnovers. To put it simply, the Texans are great at turning the ball over at the most inopportune times. There really is no perfect time to turn over the ball, but considering the Rosencopter turnover in 2008 and Moats fumbling on the 1 in 2009, weve found ways to make them costly. In order to beat the Colts, the Texans have to win the turnover battle and make smart plays. If they dont we could witness another late Colts rally.