Tonight’s divisional clash between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans pits the top two players in the AFC South against each other in prime time on CBS/NFL Network. Indianapolis (3-2) signal-caller Andrew Luck and Houston (3-2) pass-rusher J.J. Watt are undeniably two of the best in the game today and each will try to do their part to help their team move into first place in the division with a win tonight. Luck, however, has the upper hand in the budding rivalry — boasting a 3–1 record with nine TD passes and one INT all-time vs. the Texans. Luck is riding a three-game winning streak — including a 25–3 Week 15 win and 27–24 Week 9 win last season — against the division rivals since losing his first trip to Houston as a rookie.
Not to be overlooked, Texans running back Arian Foster has 404 yards rushing in four games this season and has historically dominated the Colts, averaging 150.4 yards in five career games against Indy. Look for the Colts to load up against the run and force Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to try to beat them with his arm.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network
Spread: Indianapolis -3
Three Things to Watch
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1. Indy's Thursday Night Dominance
Houston running back Arian Foster made news this week with his denunciation of Thursday night games. "It's annoying for players," said Foster. "I don't know one player that likes it. I really don't know a fan that likes it, either. I think it's just the league's way of trying to generate more revenue. Nobody is ready to play physically after a Sunday game. But you've got to go out there and do it." One team that isn't complaining, at least publicly, is Indianapolis. The Colts have won 10 in a row on Thursday, which on the surface looks like a fluke but is a large enough sample size to make you wonder. "You realize once the game starts, it's football," said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who's 2–0 as a starter on Thursday. "There's no use complaining or whining about anything. It's what you do." We'll see if the Colts continue to embrace the timeslot — and if the Texans allow their distaste for it to show.
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2. The Colts' Defensive Resurgence
The offensive players — Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, et al. — grab the headlines, but Indy's current three-game winning streak is due largely to defense. In beating Jacksonville, Tennessee and Baltimore, the Colts’ defense has surrendered only 892 yards while forcing nine turnovers and posting 11 sacks. The Colts' four sacks of Joe Flacco in the win over Baltimore represented more sacks than the Ravens had allowed in their first four games combined. The defense is giving the team a physical identity that could carry the Colts to an AFC South title. Thus far on the season, Indy has forced 10 turnovers, third most in the NFL.
3. Texan Takeaways
Speaking of forcing turnovers, that's Houston's specialty. The Texans lead the NFL in takeaways with 12, including three in a loss to the Cowboys on Sunday. Mega-million-dollar defensive end J.J. Watt leads the big-play parade with a pick-six, a fumble recovery and blocked kick to go with his two sacks. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph has chipped in with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In the Colts' two losses this season, they lost the turnover battle 4-to-1, so look for the Texans to try to force Indy into mistakes and then capitalize.
The offensive stars — Andrew Luck, Arian Foster — will have a chance to shine under a prime-time spotlight, but it's the respective defenses that could provide a winning edge in this one. Both teams are adept at forcing turnovers; whichever team wins the turnover battle, and then turns those miscues into points, will have the upper hand.