Tale of the Tape: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Two fresh teams will face off at Reliant Stadium on Sunday night as the Houston Texans entertain the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC South battle.
Both teams are coming off Week 8 byes - and it's fair to say the Texans needed it more as they come in on a five-game losing skid. They find themselves three games behind the Colts, who knocked off the Denver Broncos in Week 7 but are without their top receiver for the rest of the season.
Here's the breakdown in our betting tale of the tape:
The Colts have had a below-average passing offense to begin with - ranked 21st in the NFL at 215.4 yards per game - and may struggle even more after losing veteran-star Reggie Wayne to a torn knee ligament against the Broncos. The rest of the receiving corps - namely T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey - will be asked to pick up the slack in Wayne's absence. The rushing game remains potent, ranked ninth in the league at 129.3 yards per contest.
Despite dealing with injury and ineffectiveness from quarterback Matt Schaub, the Texans actually boast the 13th-best passing yards average in football (253.4). But the Texans have struggled to put points on the board, ranked third-last in the NFL at 17.4 per game. Houston has averaged 127.7 rushing yards per game - 10th-best in the league - but may struggle against Indianapolis with starter Arian Foster (hamstring) and backup Ben Tate (ribs) both banged up.
Indianapolis has been sound against the pass, limiting opposing teams to 228 yards per contest while allowing just eight touchdowns and wrangling eight interceptions through seven games. The run defense has been far less impressive. The Colts are allowing 122.3 rushing yards per game - the fourth-worst mark in the NFL - on a whopping 4.5 yards per carry, allowing five touchdowns while recovering just one fumble.
The Texans' pass defense may be the only positive to come out of an otherwise miserable season. Houston is limiting the opposition to a paltry 146 passing yards per game - 35 better than the next closest team. While that number may be somewhat deceiving - the Texans have still allowed 10 touchdowns against just three interceptions - it is still impressive. Houston is surrendering 122.1 rushing yards per contest, only slightly better than the Colts.
Indianapolis boasts an uneven return game, ranked eighth at 25.5 kickoff return yards per attempts and 17th at 7.9 yards per punt return. The Colts surrender 23.8 kickoff return yards per attempt, and 7.4 yards per punt return. Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has been his usual sensational self - connecting on 15 of 17 field-goal attempts - and was 3-for-3, including a season-long 52-yarder, in the victory over the Broncos.
Houston boasts an identical kickoff return average to the Colts, but gains fewer than five yards per punt-return attempt to rank in the bottom five in the NFL. The Texans have been gashed on kick return defense, permitting 26.1 yards per kickoff return and 13.9 yards per punt return - including an 82-yard touchdown by Tandon Doss in a loss to Baltimore on Sept. 22. Rookie kicker Randy Bullock is just 12-for-17 in field-goal attempts, but has made 11 of his last 12.
"When you watch the film, it's obvious you're facing one of the best defenses in the National Football League. They do a good job of just holding the line of scrimmage. I don't know that they have a weakness." - Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton on the Texans
"You'd be surprised just how much playing with confidence can do for you and how far it can take you, especially when you get into a losing frame of mind. You're thinking everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and it'll get you down and discouraged. We need a win." - Texans DE Antonio Smith