Thursday Night NFL Match-up: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Houston's Arian Foster looks to get on track early against the Indianapolis Colts' shaky defense.

The Houston Texans (10-4) look to build on their best record in franchise history tonight against an Indianapolis Colts (1-13) team that has historically had the better of them since the Texans made their debut in the NFL in 2002. However, with the Colts still reeling from the season-long absence of franchise quarterback Peyton Manning that has seen them slip to a 1-13 record thus far, Indianapolis may struggle to prevent the Texans and their top-rated defense from prevailing in tonight’s Thursday Night NFL match-up.

Two weeks ago, this match-up didn’t seem to be anything worth writing about or wagering on, as the Indianapolis Colts sat winless at 0-13, and the Houston Texans clinched their first division title since becoming a franchise, but fast forward to today as Indianapolis looks to build on their first win of the season while Houston comes off their first loss in two months and we’ve got an interesting looking match-up on our hand this evening. Though Indianapolis has ranked near the bottom of the league in just about every category on both offense or defense, last week’s 27-13 win over the Tennessee Titans was a marked improvement over their poor season form, and undoubtedly brought back at least some signs of the team Indianapolis used to be before losing their star quarterback for the season. The improved performance on defense was definitely notable as the Colts surrendered just one touchdown late in the game, picked up 1 fumble, and picked off Titan’s QB Matt Hasselbeck twice (returning 1 for a TD). Shutting down Tennessee’s lead rusher Chris Johnson to just 55 yards on the day was also a huge improvement for a defense that has been allowing almost 140 yards/game on the ground, and would bode well for the Colts if they could get a repeat performance against the Houston Texans who have the league’s 2nd best rushing attack at better than 150 yards/game.

Though back-up QB Dan Orlovsky was by no means impressive (11/17, 82 yards, 1 TD) in the win against the Titans, he made no mistakes on the day and the Colts were able to get huge production out of Donald Brown (16 carries, 161 yards, 1 80 TD scramble) and the running game which put up 206 yards against a decent Titans rush defense. Heading into tonight’s game that will likely feature plenty of Houston running plays as the Texans are down to 3rd string QB T.J. Yates, and will once again be without star wide-out Andre Johnson, the Colts have to have another solid performance on both defense and in the running game in order to compete against a very good all-around Houston squad. You can expect that both Arian Foster (255 carries, 1066 yards, 9 TDs) and Ben Tate (153 carries, 846 yards, 3 TDs) will be featured all night long for Houston as QB T.J. Yates continues his mediocre play (57 percent completion rate 3:3 TD to INT ratio), and it’s imperative that the Colts’ small-but-quick defensive front get plenty of rest in order to keep up with the non-stop barrage of running plays called by Houston coach Gary Kubiak tonight. That is a tough task to accomplish when given the outstanding performance of the Houston defense this year, led by defensive end Mario Williams, which ranks 2nd against the pass (181 yards/game), 5th against the run (97 yards/game), and 2nd overall. Without establishing the run and keeping possession, Indianapolis really doesn’t stand a chance against the Texans, who will very likely be able to keep pounding the rock for first downs time and time again, all evening long.

For Houston to pull off just their 2nd win in 17 tries against Indianapolis tonight, it’s all eyes on Arian Foster, who will be the lead running back as well as likely being the top receiver in a short passing game format, as both Andre Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels look to be scratches for game-time. With a talented #2 back in Ben Tate though, it’ll be interesting to see how he is called upon to step up with all the defensive focus of the Colts turned on Foster. While we don’t expect T.J. Yates to break out and become an accurate downfield passer, with Indianapolis struggling to protect against both the pass and the run at that same time, don’t be surprised if Gary Kubiak tests the Colts secondary by targeting Jacoby Jones, Kevin Walter and Joel Dreesen more often than expected, if only to keep the Colts honest as they put most of their eggs into the rush defense basket.

For Indianapolis to have success tonight, it all starts with keep the ground game humming along for the second straight game behind Donald Brown, but perhaps even more importantly will be seeing what kind of success Dan Orlovsky, Houston’s former back-up QB for two years, will have against a defensive scheme he’s relatively familiar with. Though by no means the same shaky D of years past, Orlovsky’s understanding of the Texans defense set-up should be advantageous for the Colts tonight, especially if Indianapolis finds itself struggling to generate a running game in the face of the Texans very stingy defensive line. That said, first and foremost for Indianapolis to have any chance at victory is to keep the ball moving on offense by any means necessary and scrap together first downs to keep drives alive. That’s a lot to ask out of a Colts offense that is dead last in the league with just 15 first downs/game, but if they can keep the ball moving like they did last week at home against Tennessee, that will help to keep the ball out of the hands of Arian Foster, and give the Colts a chance to keep the game low scoring. Lastly, avoiding the big turnover is key for Indianapolis; if they can win the turnover margin once again by protecting the ball well, and simultaneously pressure T.J. Yates into mistakes, Indianapolis will give themselves a shot at keeping this game close, and perhaps squeaking out a win. Of exceptional note, 80% of teams who win the turnover battle go on to win their games, so for a Colts team that doesn’t score much, and doesn’t have a very good defense, this must be an area they excel at tonight.

Betting Lines for Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans

Check out the NFL Odds Page on our website for a breakdown of the best betting lines and more for tonight’s Thursday Night NFL showdown across some of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here. For our wager on the game, we’re looking to the Oddsmaker Sportsbook, which is our featured online sportsbook for Thursday’s sports betting endeavors. It’s the tightest lines of the year for the Indianapolis Colts after their first win on the season, and at home the Colts are a 7 point underdog against the spread (-110 odds), and get +250 odds to win on the money line. Houston meanwhile will need to make up a touchdown to cover the spread (-110 odds as well), and the -300 odds on the money line isn’t favorable enough to put up your hard-earned dough against, as the payoff would be minimal. Rather, the over/under for this game looks appealing, especially given Arian Foster’s performances in the past against Indianapolis; 40.5 points (-110 odds either over or under) could be eclipsed with a much more confident Colts team on offense tonight, working back-and-forth against a Houston offense that will find ways to score.

Our Pick to Win:

While Indianapolis should put up another solid effort at home tonight building on their first win, Houston’s defense, as well as their punishing rushing attack, will likely be just a little too much for the Colts to overcome down the stretch. We’re hoping that the Colts choose to make a game out of this match-up by challenging the Texans downfield a bit more, but in the end we expect some of the same systemic problems for the Colts to inevitably be the difference maker. Failing to produce 1st downs late in the game, Indianapolis will have their defense on the field too often to hold back the tides of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and despite getting a couple of chances to capitalize on Houston QB T.J. Yates’ mistakes, Houston’s better all-around play will guide them to their 11th win in a franchise-best season. Houston marches out of Indy with their 2nd win all-time, edging out the Colts by a touchdown, 24-17.

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