The Indianapolis Colts sit atop the AFC South heading into Week 5, but they could have some company after “Thursday Night Football.” They visit the Houston Texans, who would claim a share of first place with a victory.
Indianapolis has dominated the division over the last 12 years, finishing the season in first place nine times. Having won the AFC South in each of the last two seasons, the Colts hold a 15-game winning streak against division opponents. Houston last beat Indianapolis on Dec. 16, 2012.
On the morning of Thursday’s contest, it looks like Andrew Luck won't start at quarterback. Earlier in the week, it appeared that Luck might be ready to return after a shoulder injury forced him to miss the first game of his career. He’s officially listed as questionable, and NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reports that Matt Hasselbeck is expected to get the call for a second week in a row.
Hasselbeck will likely start in Luck’s place, but he’s not completely healthy, dealing with a virus that’s limited his practice time. The 17-year veteran completed 30 of 47 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown in Week 4, making his first start since 2012. Indianapolis re-signed quarterback Josh Johnson this week, in case either of their two quarterbacks can’t play. The career backup has lost all five of his starts, and he hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2011.
Problems at quarterback escalated on Sunday with Ryan Mallet's benching in favor of Brian Hoyer. Head coach Bill O’Brien pulled the starter when Houston went down 42-0 to the Atlanta Falcons, as Mallett completed just 12 of his 27 pass attempts for 150 yards and an interception. Hoyer finished the game with 232 passing yards and two touchdowns, but Mallett will be back under center to start Thursday’s game.
Mallett will be without two of his three top targets. Cecil Shorts, who ranks second on the team with 22 receptions for 236 yards, has been ruled out with a shoulder injury. Nate Washington missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury, and the Texans' No.3 leading receiver will miss his second straight contest. DeAndre Hopkins ranks fifth in the NFL with 409 yards, and he’s been targeted nine more times than any receiver in the league.
The Colts and Texans meet at 8:25 p.m. ET, and the game will be simulcast on CBS and the NFL Network. A free live stream is available online at nflnonline.nfl.com.
Luck's uncertainty has changed the spread. The Texans are favored by four points. The over/under is 41 points.
The Texans are 1-5 against the spread in their last six divisional games at home, according to OddsShark.com.