This week, I got a chance to exchange some questions with Texans' blogger Claire Mullins, part of the wonderful team at State of the Texans. I had a few questions for her in regards to this week's matchup, playing a Texans' team that we haven't seen matched up against this year's Colts squad. She gave us some great, detailed answers, and allowed me to share some opinions as well. You can see my answers to her questions here. See her insight after the jump!
The ground attack seems to be the more reliable of the two, at least after that debacle in New England. However, watching Arian Foster, he seems to have lost some of his burst. Maybe he's tired? Whatever the case may be, Ben Tate, who's missed 5 of 13 games this season and has only 54 carries this season, seems to be coming back from his hamstring and foot ailments. When Tate was in in New England, the running game appeared to find creases Foster was missing so Texans fans hope to see more Tate this week and in the final two games. Tate ran against the Patriots 9th ranked rushing defense for 8 times for 46 yards, at 5.8 YPC. There needs to be more of this against the Colts this week.
In terms of which has been more potent, the passing offense is currently ranked 10th after quite an ugly showing in New England. The rushing attack is ranked 8th. Matt Schaub looked uncharacteristically lost much of the Patriots game and WR drops were a huge issue. If this doesn't improve, expect to see Foster, Tate, (and possibly Justin Forsett, too? Texans fans HOPE!) in the backfield to carry the load. Since the Colts are ranked 13th in both passing and rushing defense, it seems the Texans would go with the more proven option.
Kubiak is loved in Houston NOW, but we still take our shots. Everyone pretty much agrees that he is an offensive mastermind but one who refuses to make adjustments and adapt within a game. He starts with a script and focuses on staying on script. That can be infuriating. And the secrecy for which Kubiak is notorious can be irritating, but we do love him and his quirks. As long as he resumes game planning appropriately, the love will remain.
Luck needs to get the ball out like Brady-quick. That's how the Colts can replicate the Patriots success. I know the Colts offensive line is banged up, allowing a lot of sacks recently, and the Texans pass rush is non-existent other than J.J. Watt. Keep doubling Watt and hope for the best. I do anticipate a lot of long defensive linemen's arms in Luck's face so that would be another concern with so many offensive linemen out for the Colts, unable to keep the Texans defensive front occupied.
Let's be real, against QBs that are elite or at least accomplished (Rodgers, Brady, Peyton Manning, Stafford,) the Texans have allowed 1405 yards, 14 TDs and 0 INTs versus these four combined. Compared to the rest of the schedule, that is ridiculous. Against Brady and the Patriots, the defense looked confused, couldn't read the play action, tackled like it was a flag football game and coverages were blown.
Our secondary was easily outmatched, but having been a fan of Houston football for longer than I care to admit, I can't ignore the mental aspect of the 2012 losses. When the national media starts expecting a Houston football team to win, the team comes out looking bewildered and lost. I was at the Green Bay game and watched the New England game closely. More than once, I asked myself – "Who ARE these guys in the Texans uniforms?" Inconsistency in a big spotlight isn't going to lend well to advancing in the playoffs.
On offense, I can see Ben Tate finally getting the opportunity to unleash on the Colts' given he sees more playing time. He carried the rushing game early in 2011 when Foster was out and was quite successful. When Tate was on the field against the Patriots last week, the offense looked faster. His one cut running style and willingness to run into and past defenders compliments Foster and makes the running game multi-dimensional.
On defense, Whitney Mercilus could be the guy to watch. The rookie has had limited snaps, but with Brooks Reed being hurt, expect to see the sack machine more often. In two games, 3 sacks. In very limited snaps, 6 sacks on the season. He's so quick off the edge and with his sack (the only sack on Brady in week 14,) he ties the Texans rookie sack record.
The Texans will be angry, at Reliant, in a divisional day game. Those are pluses for my guys. However, the Colts are playing for something: they win, they're in the playoffs. The Colts seem to overcome many deficiencies by sheer will alone. That is cause enough to me for concern. I think the rest of the Texans fan base is really confident in a victory. I think we WILL win, but there's always the chance in a divisional game against a Colts team on the upswing, coming off a really ugly loss, the Texans could surprise and disappoint. That being said, I think the Texans bring the angry and win by more than a touchdown.
Thanks again to Claire for being willing to participate!