By Andrew Kahn
Could this be it—the first competitive Thursday night game of the 2014 NFL season? The Colts visit Houston as just a three-point favorite, and both teams are 3-2, so at the risk of being the Mary Swanson to your Lloyd Christmas, I’m saying there’s a chance. These two teams are tied atop the AFC South, with Tennessee and Jacksonville looking like they won’t give much chase. The next matchup isn’t until Week 15, so the winner should have an inside track to the divisional crown. Kick-off is set for 8:25 ET on CBS.
When Indianapolis has the ball:
Andrew Luck has lived up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, but many expected even bigger things from him this season. He leads the NFL with 1,617 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. The Colts have won three in a row, and Luck has topped 300 yards in each game. Luck is asked to do as much as any quarterback in the league and while he is more than up to the challenge, nobody has thrown more interceptions this season (six). He threw two last week against Baltimore but ran for a 13-yard score to put the Colts up 14.
The running game has been inconsistent, as Trent Richardson has been a major disappointment in Indianapolis. Seriously, what happened to that guy? The back who went two spots after Luck in the draft looked like a rising star in Cleveland. Last week, for the first time all season, Richardson did not have the most carries. Ahmad Bradshaw did, though he fumbled in the fourth quarter when the Colts were about to put the game away.
Houston has been a bend-but-don’t-break defense this year, giving up a ton of yards but checking in at fourth in the league in points allowed. That’s mostly due to their league-leading 12 turnovers.
When Houston has the ball:
Given the expectations for a Houston offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Texans have overachieved so far. Fitzpatrick has a 98 quarterback rating in Houston’s three wins and a 62 rating in the two losses. He’s thrown six interceptions over the past three games—Ryan Fitzpatpick, am I right?—and has yet to crack 300 yards. He has found success targeting—who else?—Andre Johnson, and will likely continue to look his way often on Thursday night.
Houston has been pretty good running the ball. Arian Foster is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and Alfred Blue is at 3.7. Foster has been historically great against Indianapolis. The Texans will rely on Foster to get them off to a good start, something that has been a problem this season (they’ve been shutout four times in the first quarter). If the running game struggles, Houston can always let J.J. Watt line up on offense, as he did while grabbing a touchdown in Week 2.
Indianapolis, meanwhile, is middle-of-the-pack in most defensive categories and has forced 10 turnovers. Given Luck’s hot streak and Houston’s struggles through the air, the Texans can’t afford to lose the turnover battle.
Prediction: Indianapolis 26, Houston 20
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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