The Texans travel to Indianapolis this Sunday in an attempt to get in the win column for the first time this season. They’ll take on the 1-2 Colts in a divisional matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.

4. Season Thus Far

Watson led the Texans to a 3-5 record before suffering a torn ACL in practice (Pre Snap Reads).

The Texans have likely been the biggest disappointment of any NFL team this season. After
injuries to Watson, Watt and Mercilus derailed the 2017 season, the Texans looked poised to bounce back and fight for a playoff spot.

In Week One they looked sloppy on offense, struggling to put points on the board. Watson looked rusty against the Patriots in his first start since returning from his torn ACL. He lost a fumble as well as throwing an interception during a game in which he had a paltry 50% completion rate, resulting in a Patriots win.

In Week Two they got significantly out-coached by their former defensive coordinator, Mike Vrabel, and would lose once again to the Tennessee Titans. The Texans offensive line may not be very good, but a Titans’ line that was missing both Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin managed to push the ball downfield against the Texans with Blaine Gabbert under center for their first win of the season.

Taywan Taylor (13) celebrating an 18-yard touchdown reception (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle).

Week Three brought the same disappointment, with a loss to the lowly Giants which saw Eli Manning carve up the defense. While the talent is there, the game plan doesn’t seem to
maximize the team’s abilities, and they’ll continue to struggle until changes are made.

The Colts started their season against the Bengals, a matchup featuring two high variance
teams and quarterback Andrew Luck’s return from injury. The Bengals offense massively underperformed last season, with Andy Dalton throwing for an uncharacteristically low completion percentage, high interception rates, and the lowest yards per attempt since his rookie season in 2011. The Bengals came out firing though and the Colts gave up 34 points in the Week One loss.

Andy Dalton threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a Week One victory over the Colts (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic).

In Week Two, the Colts defense looked much better, keeping the Redskins out of the end zone, resulting in only nine points given up in their first win of the season. They also played a complete game against the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles in Carson Wentz’s return from a knee injury, entering the fourth quarter tied and carrying a lead into the final 5 minutes before an Eagles game winning touchdown run.

Luck hasn’t quite returned to his old self, but he’s on his way there game-by-game. The defense is also outperforming their talent level at this point, with lots of spot starters filling their roles well. The Colts could play spoiler to a lot of contenders this season.

3. Quarterback Dual

Sep 16, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) celebrates while running off the field after the Colts' game against the Washington Redskins game at FedEx Field. The Colts won 21-9. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
ndrew Luck (12) celebrates while running off the field after the Colts’ game against the Washington Redskins game at FedEx Field. The Colts won 21-9 (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports).

Deshaun Watson

Watson set the league on fire last season with 19 touchdowns in just six starts, an NFL record. He hasn’t quite looked the same this season after coming back from a torn ACL.

His throws look as crisp as last season, and his velocity looks like it has even improved, but his mental processing isn’t there. He’s always been prone to interceptions, but previously it’s been due to his mechanics, such as opening his front leg and letting the ball sail. At this point in the season, his three interceptions have been on poor decisions.

Also, his attempt to lead a two-minute drill downfield to tie the game against the Titans came up short after he held the ball for 17 seconds rather than targeting the sideline to get into field goal range or even just throwing the ball away. It hasn’t been as bad as this has made it out to be though.

Watson is still slinging the ball well and he’s getting the ball into his receivers’ hands constantly. The offensive game plan needs to allow for him to make plays downfield. The top three offenses in the league in terms of yardage – Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and the Rams – have been throwing throwing the ball on first down 59.3% of the time, while the Texans sit only at 56.25% of the time.

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Watson has thrown for 871 yards and five touchdowns through the first three weeks of the season (David E. Klutho).

Frankly, the Texans don’t have the offensive line to gain significant yardage on first and ten to make it second and manageable.

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck was berated on social media this offseason after reports had come out stating he hadn’t thrown a football in over an entire calendar year. Regardless, Luck came back and is now throwing the pigskin for the the Indianapolis Colts.

While he doesn’t look like the same quarterback that threw for 40 touchdowns in 2014, he’s acclimating to the game once again. Unfortunately, he’ll have to do this with very little run game supporting him. Although Jordan Wilkins was a draft favorite of mine and an underrated prospect, he doesn’t pose a threat to defenses.

Aug 20, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Luck’s NFL future was in question after suffering a shoulder injury that required going to Europe for rehabilitation (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports).

Luck’s first touchdown of the season was a perfectly placed touchdown over the top of the defense to the newly acquired Eric Ebron. He’s shown that he can make these throws consistently, but with the good comes the bad.

He’s thrown three interceptions to this point, two of them coming off misreading linebacker coverages, and the third coming off a batted pass at the line. If Luck is going to get back to
where he was before the injury, he needs to continue to make the reads and throws across the middle of the field.

The offensive scheme has him throwing a career low average depth of target, so as he continues to get his reps in, the interceptions should stop.

2. Key Matchups

J.J. Watt recorded a whopping three sacks against the New York Giants last week (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle).

J.J. Watt vs Anthony Castonzo

Anthony Castonzo took first team reps this week again in practice and he looks like the
probable starter for the game this Sunday.

J.J. Watt came close to a few sacks in weeks one and two, but he finally got to the quarterback this past week. He sacked Eli Manning three times, making left tackle Chad Wheeler the lowest graded offensive tackle of the week by Pro Football Focus.

Castonzo is a really effective pass blocker, giving up less than five quarterback hits last season, ultimately putting him in the upper echelon of offensive tackles. He’ll have his work cut out for him this week as J.J. Watt looks like he’s returning to form week-by-week.

Lamar Miller vs Darius Leonard

Reports came in this offseason saying Lamar Miller had dropped weight, getting back down to what he was during his Dolphins tenure. In the first two games of the season he did look quicker and more effective, even working behind a disastrous offensive line.

Nov 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller (26) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts free safety Darius Butler (20) during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Lamar Miller had 18 carries 94 yards and three catches for 34 yards in two games against Indianapolis last season (Shanna Lockwood/USA TODAY Sports).

In Week Three though, he was held to 10 yards on 10 carries. He’ll try to get back on track against the Colts defense and their rookie of the year candidate Darius Leonard.

After the Colts took some heat for reaching for an FCS linebacker out of South Carolina State in the second round, he’s made his mark on the league thus far. He leads the NFL in tackles with 41 and also has 3.0 sacks, which is good for the top mark among inside linebackers.

Leonard was named Rookie of the Week in Week Two after recording 18 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and one pass defended (COLTSWIRE).

If he can continue doing what he has to this point, he’ll make it a long, frustrating game for Miller.

1. Prediction

Texans 23 – Colts 20

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