HOUSTON VS INDY PREVIEW By Brad Lorkovic (LORK 88) What a season it has been thus far. We've gone from being a small, collective group of fans ranting about how Houston will be good this year (while getting mocked), to being a small, collective group of fans ranting about how great Houston is (with people hopping on the bandwagon daily). Now before we all get gun-ho about going 3-0, we should realize that it's against the reigning World Champions, the Indianapolis Colts. Despite losing some key players on both sides of the ball, the Colts are still playing at a high level and showing barely any flaws. In fact, Indy has won 9 of their last 10 games. However, there is a key component, and it belongs to the last team to beat them: the Houston Texans. So will Houston repeat the victory that was earned last year, or will Indy continue their dominant ways? Houstons Running Game vs. Indys Run D: This is where we need to be consistent and really concentrate on. Green has been solid so far, and has done a better job on finishing the runs. He also found the end zone last week which was a huge problem for us last year. Hes shown power hitting the hole and can bounce off tackles, which is perfect for us controlling the clock. Dayne might be out, which means that we could see Gado, who has great measurables, but needs to work on his vision and patience. So far, our O Line has progressed when it comes to opening holes this season, but needs to work on consistency and lower the number of run plays stopped behind the line of scrimmage. Defensively, the Colts have done a decent job against the run. Mathis and Freeney arent the strongest guys, but what they do is collapse the pocket and can get great jumps on the ball, which can disrupt the play. Brock used to play DE, but now moved to DT, which will make for an interesting battle on the inside. The other DT is rookie Ed Johnson, a 6th round pick from Penn State. Not too much is known about him, so I unfortunately cant comment too much on him yet. At LB, the Colts have Brackett, Morris, and Keiaho who are all undersized by NFL standards, but can play. Brackett is stout in the middle and is looking to have his 3rd straight season with over 120 tackles. Keiaho is a newcomer so to speak, but has made an impact so far on defense. Morris has lost a step, and is the weak link in the LB group. He actually wasnt the starter for a lot of last year, but will be this year. He can make the occasional play, but would be better served to be depth at this point. The key for us will be to work in the middle of the field. The Colts have too much speed, especially outside, so we need to work inside and make smart cuts. Houstons Passing Game vs. Indys Pass D: Schaub has continued to impress at QB this season. Hes made quick decisions, hit receivers in stride, and was smart with the ball. Unfortunately, this week will be possibly one of the biggest tests of his career. This week, hell be without his go-to WR Andre Johnson who has looked even better than he has in his previous pro-bowl seasons. Without Johnson, expect Owen Daniels to get a lot of looks, who is a mismatch against LBs in the open. Walter and Jones will need to step up this week. Walter has looked decent doing the little things well (blocking, etc), but needs to step up as a WR. Jones looked great in pre-season, but needs to prove that he can do it in the regular season. Davis will now get looks in the slot, and will try to prove that he can still play like he did in Cleveland. Our O Line should get a nice test like we did last week as well, although the Colts pass rush is quite different from Carolinas. Indys pass rush from the front 4 relies on speed and agility. Freeney and Mathis are both undersized, but are shifty and fast with a knack for collapsing the pocket from the outside. The DTs are what intrigue me. Brock spent a couple season playing DE before making the transitioning to DT full time this season. He brings a DE mentality to the pass rush inside. The only LB that offers a real threat as far as pass defense goes is Freddy Keiaho, the 2nd year OLB from San Diego State. Hes already picked off Drew Brees and taken it for 6. As far as the secondary goes, Marlon Jackson and Kelvin Hayden are the starting CBs. Both are very tall, and physical at the line. At safety, Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea will be big threats. Bethea had a breakout rookie year, while Sanders is a dual threat at FS. Hopefully our running game will help us out by keeping their defense honest. Indys Rushing Game vs. Houstons Run D: While many thought Addai had a good rookie season, hes having an even better year this year. So far, Addai is averaging 100 yards a game rushing and has a 4.6 YPC average. Addai has good size, and is quick, but his best asset is making the smart cut and getting up field. Outside of Addai, the only other person who might see carries is Kenton Smith, a rookie out of New Mexico State who beat out DeDe Dorsey for the backup spot. Their might be a reverse here or there, but the Colts O Line does such a good job of creating lanes for Addai, that they really dont require anyone else to run the ball. For us, Okoye and Johnson will need to be stout on the inside and hold up the line of scrimmage. Weaver and Mario will also have the important job of making sure nothing gets outside. The Colts o line is athletic and can get outside on stretch plays, so its up to them to filter everything inside. DeMeco Ryans should have a busy game in the middle too, as thats where I expect a majority of the running plays to go for Indy. He will need Okoye and Johnson to keep blockers off of him so that he can be an enforcer in the middle. Greenwood has been decent thus far (I still havent noticed him too much yet, which I guess is a good thing), and Clark will need to be a force in rush defense as he has been thus far. Overall, we need to hold up our blocks and force everything inside. Indys Passing Game vs. Houstons Pass D: Well, here comes Peyton Manning again. We all know that he has a laser, rocket arm, and can make just about any throw. So far this season, hes looked like he always has, so theres no reason to get into it more as we all know what he brings. At WR, theres Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. Harrison is possibly the best WR in the league and runs excellent routes. Hes smart, instinctive, and usually always makes the catch. Wayne is younger, and a great WR in his own right. Hes got more speed and athleticism than Harrison, but also has great hands and runs his routes well. The other weapon Manning will hit on a regular basis is Dallas Clark. He will get lined up all over the field to create mismatch problems over the middle of the field. Despite being a TE, Clark is athletic and can stretch the field. As far as the O Line protecting Manning goes, it hasnt changed much over the year. In fact, their entire O Line is about the same size (around 64 300 lbs give or take some pounds and an inch or two), and theyve been starting together for a good amount of time now. The 2 factors that could make a difference will be Ryan Diem and Tony Ugoh. Diem is questionable for the game, while Ugoh is a rookie and unpolished. He has shown potential, but is still a rookie and lacks consistency like the rest of his linemen have. For us, I really like the match up Mario will have. He will either end up with a rookie or Diem. Orr/Anderson will get the other side and also should pose an interesting battle on the other side. As far as our secondary goes, it will be a battle. Robinson has played like a shutdown CB this year, and after going against these WRs for the past 4 seasons, should have a good understanding of what to expect. However, Faggins will be overmatched having to cover Harrison or Wayne, as he was last week trying to cover Steve Smith. Our safeties will also have to do a good job preventing the deep play, as the Colt WRs are great at double moves. Overall, this will be our biggest challenge and a lot of how well we do will be dependent on how fast we can get to Manning. POSITION BATTLE QB Advantage: INDY RB Advantage: INDY WR Advantage: INDY TE Advantage: PUSH OL Advantage: INDY DL Advantage: PUSH LB Advantage: HOUSTON CB Advantage: PUSH S Advantage: INDY K/P Advantage: PUSH RET Advantage: HOUSTON KEY FACTORS TO WINNING THE GAME 1) Get pressure on Manning! I know it's next to impossible to stop him, but what we can do is get pressure on him all day and force him to make quick decisions. It also would be a huge benefit to our secondary if they knew that the DLine would be getting to Manning as they wouldn't have to cover their two pro bowl WRs longer than necessary. I know that everyone is expecting Manning to absolutely torch us for huge numbers, but if we can get pressure on him, we have a lot better chance of stopping the big play and getting him to make costly mistakes. 2) Win the battle of field position. Nothing would make life easier for the Colts than letting them have to ball at their 40 every time, so we need to make sure we force them to go the entire length of the field to score. This key to the game also means that we need to do what we can to start close to. A lot of this will be dependent on special teams (I feel ours is better than theirs), but a part of this will also require us not turning the ball over and making bad decisions. We got lucky last week after turning the ball over in our half of the field, but were lucky enough to recover quickly. However, this week against the Colts we wont be able to catch up if they take advantage of field position early. 3) Run the ball successfully. Im sure nobody will forget how we beat Indy last time around, which is the big reason why its on here. Last year, we ran the ball all day which kept their offense off the field and let us control the clock. The beauty of it too was that Carr didnt even have that great of a game, but the running game made that a non factor. Schaub is more than capable of having a solid day against Indy, but running the ball well against the Colts is a great way to keep them honest, control the clock, and keep their offense off the field.