Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts will take on the NFL’s best pass defense in the Houston Texans without their No. 1 receiver on Sunday night at Reliant Stadium.
Before their bye, the Colts lost Reggie Wayne for the rest of the season with an ACL tear suffered in the huge victory over Denver. The veteran was poised for another solid year with 38 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns, and more will be asked from Luck and receivers T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey. With Wayne in the lineup, the Colts were eighth in the NFL with 26.7 points per game and averaging 344.7 yards.
The Texans are mired in a five-game losing streak, but not because of their secondary. Ranking first overall, the Texans pass defense has surrendered 145.6 yards per game thanks in part to defensive backs Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson combining for 11 passes defended and an interception.
Unfortunately, poor quarterback play and an inability to force turnovers have been Houston’s downfall. However they are starting to make adjustments. Rookie Case Keenum took over for Matt Schaub and threw for 271 yards and a touchdown, and the defense forced a fumble in Week Seven’s narrow 17-16 loss to Kansas City.
Keenum certainly isn't lacking top targets in Andre Johnson and rookie DeAndre Hopkins. Johnson leads the team with 48 receptions for 584 yards but has yet to reach the endzone, and Hopkins has two scores to go with 416 receiving yards.
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Houston will also need to find a way to stop the run, coming in as the fourth worst rush defense in the league. The loss of top linebacker Brian Cushing to a blown out knee and broken leg could seriously hinder a chance of the Texans getting any better against the run.
The 5-2 Colts have a chance to build a solid lead in the AFC South over 2-5 Houston and 4-4 Tennessee, reclaiming the division they won eight straight times from 2003 to 2010. Running back Trent Richardson has been a solid addition for 228 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Luck has put together a solid second season with 1,574 passing yards, and 10 touchdowns to three picks.
Injuries could have left Keenum without his two best rushers, but he will at least have Ben Tate and Arian Foster is a game time decision, according to the team’s official site. Tate will reportedly play with four cracked ribs, but Foster’s nagging hamstring is still a big concern.
Indianapolis has a few more injuries to worry about other than Wayne. Cornerbacks Josh Gordy and Greg Toler are both out with groin injuries, and safety Delano Howell is also out with a neck injury.
Heyward-Bey and linebacker Cam Johnson are both questionable. Heyward-Bey due to a sore hamstring, and Johnson because of a bad knee.
Betting Odds: Indianapolis favored by 10 points
Over/Under: 48 points
Where To Watch Online: SNF All Access
TV Channel: NBC
Time: 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Houston 20