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The Indianapolis Colts are coming off one of their most gut-wrenching losses in franchise history. The team will be looking for a quick rebound against one of their divisional rivals.
The Houston Texans are coming to Lucas Oil Stadium, but this will be a newly looked franchise that has seen a lot of turnover since the last time these two teams faced. Frank Reich has dominated the series since he took over in 2018, he is 5-2 against Houston, which includes a wildcard win that was on the road.
Despite sitting 1-4, the season isn’t completely over for the Colts, but a loss on Sunday would basically be the final nail in the coffin to their playoff hopes. The Texans aren’t the pushover team that most analysts thought they would be this season so the team shouldn’t be looking over them and counting this as an easy victory.
Week 6 will tell a lot about Indianapolis and how their collapse on Monday night has impacted their mindset. Will we see a team that quickly shakes it off to dominate a familiar opponent? Do they struggle to barely win or fall to a 1-5 record?
Sunday afternoon will be very telling of what to expect going forward, here are the top five things to watch during the matchup:
Is Carson Wentz's performance here to stay?
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Lamar Jackson’s miracle comeback has completely erased the talk of Wentz’s performance from Monday night. Not only did the quarterback put together one of his best games for the last few years, but he also had a career game statistically. He posted career-high passing yardage (402), passer rating (128.5), and yard per attempt (11.49).
He looked the most confident that he has since joining the organization and wasn’t afraid to trust his arm to take a shot down the field. It is important to keep in mind that this is one game, in order to fully prove that Chris Ballard and Reich made the correct move, he needs to string together a number of games in a row playing at a high level.
He shouldn’t need to throw for over 350 yards every week, but his development within the offensive scheme should continue to allow him to test every inch of the playing field with his arm. Houston has given up 257 passing YPG this season, which ranks 15th in the NFL.
After taking it to the vaunted Baltimore defense, he should enter this matchup with a lot of belief that he’s ready to take the offense to the next step in the process.
Will the defense take advantage of a rookie quarterback?
AP Photo/Terrance Williams
There are a lot of questions surrounding Matt Eberflus and his defense for not only playing a part in squandering the lead against the Ravens but also for how the unit has played for the majority of the first quarter of the season.
On Sunday, they are set to face a rookie that is coming off his best game since taking over as the starter. Against New England Patriots he went 21/29 for 312 yards and three touchdowns. This is outstanding considering the history of first-year quarterbacks struggling against Bill Belichick’s defense. Which came off his worst game in the NFL when he went 11/21 for 87 yards and four interceptions versus the Buffalo Bills.
Overall in his three starts and limited appearance in Week 1, he has gone 59/96 for 669 yards, five touchdowns, and five interceptions. Despite the injuries, the defense can’t afford to let the rookie dice them up like most quarterbacks have done this season. There is some fire starting to simmer underneath the defensive coordinator’s seat right now and if his unit fails to force Mills to have a rough day then it will start to heat up early in the season.
Does the offense continue it's development?
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Wentz’s emergence on Monday night wasn’t the only thing to take from the loss. Jonathan Taylor’s breakout continued, Michael Pittman Jr. showcased some play-making ability, Parris Campbell got more involved, and Mo Alie-Cox is starting to look like the lead tight end in the offense.
The offensive line has steadily improved over the last couple of weeks. Chris Reed has done a solid job filling in for Quenton Nelson and the coaching staff made the correct call by placing Matt Pryor over Julien Davenport at the right tackle spot while they patiently wait for Braden Smith’s return.
Pass protection is still going through their woes but the group dominated the trenches in the ground game for the majority of the night against Baltimore. The communication between quarterback and line needs to improve, it has led to Wentz being under duress from immediate pressure from a missed block.
If the offense can continue to trend in the right direction then it should be a lot better once Nelson, Smith, and T.Y. Hilton make their returns to the lineup.
Will the defense create consistent pressure?
AP Photo/Larry French
The inability to get their hands on the quarterback has been a nagging issue for the defense over the last few years and it has yet to be fixed five games into this season. DeForest Buckner is getting double-teamed and outside of one game by Kemoko Turay, there hasn’t been any other player to get two sacks or more this year.
As much as the secondary should get the blame for the defense getting picked apart by passing attacks, the front four has just as much fault for the entire unit’s ability to slow down offenses. There have been too many times to count when a quarterback has been able to sit back in a clean pocket and allow his receivers to find an open hole in the defense.
Whether it is a player stepping up or Eberflus getting creative with his scheme, consistently attacking the quarterback has to be fixed if they want to improve going forward. The Texans will be without both their starting tackles after placing Marcus Cannon on IR and Laremy Tunsil is having surgery on his thumb which is supposed to keep him out for four weeks. If there was ever a time to get things right with the pass rush, it is against Houston on Sunday.
Can they start to take advantage of the schedule?
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Indianapolis has dealt with one of the hardest schedules in the NFL to start the season. In their next five games, they face the Texans, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, and Jacksonville Jaguars. The string of matchups would have been a lot better to deal with compared to who they faced in the first quarter of the year.
The biggest circled game is their rematch with the Titans. Surprisingly at 1-4, if the ball falls their way, the Colts could have an opportunity to tie Tennessee for the AFC South lead if the results of the next two weeks go their way. Prior to the rematch, the Titans face the Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Those are very tough matchups for the division rivals so if Indianapolis can handle their business, they could increase their playoff odds by the end of October. One last note on Tennessee’s schedule, they face the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints in the following two weeks after they face the Colts. This might not be something you can necessarily watch in the Texans game, but a win on Sunday could spring a potential run to save the season.
It is important for the franchise to just take it one game at a time and see how the dominoes fall around them.