The Colts have a chance this weekend to extend their turnaround season in Houston.
A win, and the reward is a trip to Kansas City for another opportunity to end the Super Bowl dreams of of Chief fans. (Since 1995, the Chiefs have gone to the playoffs nine times, and have won only a single game. The Colts are responsible for four of the nine losses.)
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though – there is work to be done against the Texans Saturday afternoon.
So what do the Colts need to do to earn the win against the Texans?
- Keep Deshaun Watson in the pocket. When great coverage results in a 15-yard scramble for a first down, a defense becomes demoralized. Watson has been sacked 62 times this season, so negative plays will be there. Turning a potential first down into a punt is the difference if the Colts are successful in penning Watson in.
- Give Andrew Luck time to find an open T.Y. Hilton. Last time out in Houston, Luck threw for 399 yards, and 199 of it went to Hilton. The Texans like to take chances defensively, and the Colts must make them pay. When Luck is sacked two or more times, the Colts are 1-4 this season (the lone win came in Houston December 9th).
- Limit DeAndre Hopkins. The Colts did a great job against Hopkins December 9th when he had only four catches for 36 yards. He is the only dynamic offensive weapon for the Texans – other than Watson – so curbing his use is critical. Hopkins caught 115 balls during the regular season, and the next most prolific receiver caught 32 balls. And he’s now on IR. The Colts are really good at stopping the run, so if the Texans are going to outscore the Colts, Hopkins needs to be the one to do it.
- Maintain health through the end of the game. When Hilton and the starting offensive line all play, the Colts are undefeated this season. Hilton is especially important. When he’s on the field, opponents need to focus on him just as the Colts will focus on Hopkins.
- Avoid Luck brain farts. Every once in a while, Luck tries to make a great play where none exists. The result can be disastrous, as it was in Nashville last Sunday with that bizarre pick six. Turnovers kill in the postseason. Luck needs to be satisfied with making all the good plays – those should be enough to win the game.
How the Colts can get these things done in the third meeting between these two divisional rivals is for the coaches to figure out and the players to execute, but if the Colts are going to survive and advance that to-do-list must be filled.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.