By Tom James Tribune-Star correspondent
Greensburg Daily News
---- — The game -- Indianapolis Colts (5-2, 1-0 AFC South) at Houston Texans (2-5,1-0 AFC South), 8:30 p.m. (EST), Reliant Stadium (Grass), Houston, Texas.
Coverage -- NBC Sports (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya); Colts Radio Network (Bob Lamey, Jim Sorgi, Matt Taylor); Westwood One Sports (Kevin Kugler, James Lofton, Steve Tasker). Sirius NFL Radio: Channel 94, WW1; Channel 92 (Colts); Channel 93 (Texans). XM NFL Radio: Channel 227, WW1; Channel 225 (Colts); Channel 226 (Texans).
The coaches -- Colts: Chuck Pagano (16-7, 2nd year). Texans: Gary Kubiak (61-58, 8th year). Pagano has a 1-1 career-coaching record against Houston. Kubiak is 4-10 against the Colts.
The series -- 23rd regular season meeting. Colts lead series, 18-4. Indianapolis has won nine of the past 12 meetings. The Colts are 11-0 against Houston in games played in Indianapolis and 7-4 in games played at Reliant Stadium. The Colts are 6-0 at the Hoosier/RCA Dome and 5-0 at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Texans. Indianapolis has swept the season series with the Texans seven times (2002-05, 2007-09). Houston won the last matchup between the two franchises at Reliant Stadium (12/16/12), posting a 29-17 victory as Texans RB Arian Foster rushed for 165 yards and WR Andre Johnson had 151 receiving yards and a touchdown. Houston DE J.J. Watt had three sacks and a forced fumble in the game. Indianapolis, however, posted a 28-16 in the last meeting of the two teams (12/30/12) as QB Andrew Luck threw a 70-yard TD pass to WR T.Y. Hilton. RB Deji Karim, now with Houston, had a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Last week -- Indianapolis and Houston both had byes last week. The Colts beat Denver 39-33 at Lucas Oil Stadium two weeks ago. The Texans lost 17-16 at Kansas City two weeks ago.
They said it -- WR Reggie Wayne (knee) had surgery last Friday in Miami and has begun the rehab process. His wife is a physical therapist. They met after he underwent knee surgery while in college. “She’s kicking the crap out of him,” the Colts head coach said of Wayne’s recovery. The receiver was scheduled to meet with his surgeon, Dr. John Uribe, Thursday to discuss when he can return to Indianapolis.
Did you know? -- OLB Robert Mathis has a league-leading 11.5 sacks heading into the Houston game. “The guy is just a pro. Takes care of himself and he works at his craft. He seems to be in the right spot because he’s always playing his tail off. He’s always full speed. His motor doesn’t stop,” the Colts head coach said. Mathis, who was named as the AFC Defensive Player of the Month, has had at least one sack in six of the Colts’ seven games this season.
Stat of the week -- The Colts have turned the ball over six times this season, which ranks first in the NFL. The six turnovers are tied for the fourth-fewest through seven games in franchise history.
By the numbers -- 28/227. Indianapolis has committed 28 penalties for 277 yards so far this season. Both numbers rank the Colts first in the league in each category.
The game plan -- Control the tempo offensively. Be aggressive defensively.
The Colts’ running game continues to be a work in progress, but the team has had success at times moving the ball on the ground. Indianapolis ranks ninth in the league in rushing yards per game (129.3) and seventh in rushing yards per play (4.55).
By keeping the ball on the ground and taking what a tough Houston defense gives them, not forcing plays that aren’t there, the Colts want to be able to control the game’s tempo. But it won’t be easy. Houston’s defense ranks first in the league for the fewest yards allowed per game (267.7) and in passing yards per game (145.6).
Defensively, Indianapolis has to be able to force turnovers against a Texans offensive unit that has had issues with protecting the football. Houston will start a young quarterback, so keeping him off balance and off-rhythm are crucial.
Key matchups -- Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Texans pass defense. Luck hasn’t thrown for huge numbers this season (1,574 yards, 10 touchdowns) but he has only had three passes picked off. He is completing nearly 61 percent of his throws. Houston, meanwhile, has limited opposing quarterbacks to 58.5 percent completion percentage and have recorded 16 sacks.
Texans WRs Andre Johnson/DeAndre Hopkins vs. Colts CBs. The Indianapolis secondary did a nice job of defending Denver’s potent passing game two weeks ago. But CB Greg Toler has been nursing a groin injury, which means that backup Cassius Vaughn might get the call as a replacement. CB Vontae Davis was dinged up against the Broncos but should be good to go this week. Johnson (48 catches for 584 yards) and Hopkins (28-416, 2 TDs) will be formidable targets.