Texans-Colts II: Five matchups to watch

Texans-Colts II: Five matchups to watch
December 30, 2012, 8:00 am
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What do Texans need to do to beat Colts?

It’s a big game on Sunday. When the Texans host the Colts in at noon, it’s not just a division battle, it could be a difference-maker for the Texans.

If the Texans win on Sunday, they’ll clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which comes with a first-round bye and home-field throughout the playoffs until the Super Bowl. The Texans could have rendered this game meaningless if they had just beaten the Vikings last week but they didn’t.

The Colts don’t really have anything to play for – at least not on paper. They’ve already punched their ticket to the postseason and can’t get a higher seed but they’re still going to play hard on Sunday. They’ve never lost in 10 matchups to the Texans in Indianapolis. And, their head coach, Chuck Pagano, is returning to coach his first game after missing the entire season while battling cancer. They don’t want to lose this one.
 
Without further ado, here are five matchups to watch inside the game:

1. J.J. Watt vs. Whoever the heck has to try to stop J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt comes into the game with 20.5 sacks this season. He’s two away from tying Michael Strahan’s single-season record and is 2.5 away from making the record his.

And a beat-up offensive line stands in his way. Center Samson Satele has already been ruled out for the game and right tackle Winston Justice is questionable.

The last time the two teams met (the game before last) Satele and Justice were out and Watt had his most productive day of the season. He had 10 tackles, three sacks, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble. Six of his 10 tackles were for a loss.

“I’m like anybody else talking to you guys right now,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said. “For the last 12 weeks, I’ve been a fan and having to sit back and watch it just like everybody else. He’s had, obviously, a tremendous year. He’s got an opportunity to break a sack record out there.

“He’s been a disruptive force. He’s an explosive guy. He’s a playmaker. He’s solid in both areas. He’s excellent against the run. He does a great job against the pass obviously and putting pressure on the quarterback, quarterback hits, quarterback sacks, batted balls. You can go on and on and on. He’s a high-motor guy, high-energy guy. He’s relentless. His motor is always running hot.”

2. Arian Foster vs. Colts’ defense

Arian Foster had to leave last Sunday’s game with an irregular heartbeat but says he’s OK. While it might sound like a scary thing, Foster has been cleared by doctors and will play against the Colts.

Bad news for the Colts.

Two weeks ago against the Colts, Foster had his most productive game of the season, running the ball 27 times for 165 yards. That’s not uncommon against the Colts.

In four career games against Indy, Foster has averaged 164 yards per game, the highest total against any NFL opponent.

So why has Foster been so effective against the Colts?

“Luck,” he said. “I don’t know.”

3. Brandon Harris vs. Reggie Wayne

A couple of weeks ago, the Texans shut down Reggie Wayne. It wasn’t just Brandon Harris, but the second-year nickel corner did a good job against one of the best receivers in the NFL.

Wayne caught three passes for 14 yards in the last meeting between the two clubs, his worst outing of 2012.

Earlier this week, Andre Johnson said that Houston was one of the potential landing spots for Wayne during this past offseason. Well, that didn’t happen. Now, the Texans have to make sure they stop him.  

4. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers

The Colts have a propensity for turning the ball over. They have the second-worst turnover differential in the AFC at minus-14. They’ve turned the ball over 27 times, with 18 Andrew Luck interceptions.

Luck didn’t throw an INT against the Texans in the first matchup but Indy did fumble once.

Perhaps more importantly, the Texans didn’t turn the ball over in that game. Their turnover differential is plus-14, the second best mark in the AFC.  

5. Owen Daniels vs. Colts’ defense

Owen Daniels had a solid game two weeks ago against the Colts – four catches for 40 yards. But the tight end hasn’t scored since Thanksgiving.

In his first nine games of the season, Daniels averaged around 60 yards per game with five total touchdowns. In the five games since, he’s averaged around 31 yards per game with just one touchdown.

For whatever reason, Daniels hasn’t been involved in the offense as much and this might not be the week he gets back.

In 10 career games against the Colts, Daniels has just 27 catches for 262 yards and one touchdown.

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