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Week 5 Preview: Colts at Texans

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Indianapolis Colts (2-2) at Houston Texans (1-3)

Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, at NRG Stadium, Houston. – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson

*Keys to the game: The Colts go for three consecutive wins but are dog tired and bruised having gone to overtime Sunday and traveling on a short week. With QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) questionable and RB Frank Gore (hand) sore, how Indianapolis attacks a talented but underperforming Texans defense is unclear. Gore fumbled at the goal line for the second time this season last week when Luck didn’t play. Sparking the running game is heavily important to the Colts, but Luck can also take note of QB Matt Hasselbeck’s quick trigger against Jacksonville last week. Hasselbeck felt pressure on just 19 percent of his snaps, about 50 percent less than Luck is under duress.

Any effort to prolong drives and establish an identity for the Texans has been derailed by turnovers, including four more last week. But the Colts are a staggering minus-9 in turnover ratio, and QB Ryan Mallett has the arm to excel if coach Bill O’Brien allows him to come out swinging – the Texans lead the NFL with 201 pass attempts. RB Arian Foster (eight carries, 10 yards) was bottled up last week in his first game of the season but the Colts can be moved off the ball and Foster averages six yards per carry and 120 yards per game in this matchup in his career.

*Matchup to watch – Colts offensive line vs. Texans DE J.J. Watt: Watt has made plenty of noise against Indianapolis. He has eight sacks in six games against Luck and even though the Colts claim improvement with the same starting five for the third straight game this week, Watt can easily overwhelm double-team blocks and limit the playbook.

*Player spotlight – Colts WR Andre Johnson: The reclamation project is a serious failure to date, but Johnson returns home needing six catches to move up to No. 8 in NFL history and carrying a serious axe to grind against O’Brien and his former team. Johnson has seven receptions but none in the past two games.

*Fast facts: The Colts have won 15 consecutive games against AFC South opponents – tied for the NFL record for division wins – and are 22-4 all-time against the Texans. … Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins has only 31 receptions on 60 passes intended for him this season. He was targeted 22 times last week (nine receptions).

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Momentum is nonexistent for the Colts, who were lucky to escape with wins over the Titans and Jaguars. Health and energy are in short supply this week, as the Texans show some defensive might and park Andrew Luck and the Colts in a slow-moving struggle.

*Our pick: Texans 18-12


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