By Shawn Lealos
The Houston Texans were one win from the playoffs in 2014, but came into 2015 with a new starting quarterback and an improved defense. The Indianapolis Colts have dominated the AFC South for years and limped into the 2015 season, struggling through games they should have won. Now, the two teams face off on Thursday Night Football with the AFC South still within reach for both teams. Here is a look at this week's Thursday Night Football game between the Colts and Texans.
AFC South Is Wide Open
The AFC South is up for grabs, and that should tell fans all they need to know about the current lack of competition in the division. The Colts opened the season with two straight losses, but sit on top of the AFC South after barely beating the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, two teams in a rebuilding process. With two wins, they are one game up on all three of their division rivals and the Texans stand as their third straight in-division competition. The Texans only win this season came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they really have to turn things around or they will end up in a deep hole. On the other hand, if the Texans can beat the Colts, they will jump into first place in the AFC South. That is how close this division is.
Andrew Luck Is Hurt
Interestingly, the Colts lost their first two games with Andrew Luck starting, but then he sat out of Sunday's game against the Jaguars and the Colts won. Through three games this season, Luck has only averaged 251 passing yards and has thrown seven interceptions compared to just five touchdowns. This is not like the Andrew Luck football fans are used to, his hurt shoulder might be contributing to that. The Texans' problems are on offense, and their defense is better, although they haven't looked that way so far this season. An injured Luck, or even Luck sitting out, could be what the Texans defense needs to reignite.
Quarterback Battle in Houston
The Houston Texans also have a quarterback situation on hand. The season started with Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback, but he lost his job to Ryan Mallett. In the Texans' loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Hoyer replaced Mallett in the game and led the Texans back, although it was too late in the game to make an impact. On the season, Hoyer has a better quarterback rating, at 87.2, and part of that is Mallett's three interceptions. Neither man has played well enough to win, but one of them have to step up if they want a chance.
Through the first three games of the season, Alfred Blue did nothing to help his Texans win games. With 204 yards rushing through four games, they just don't trust him enough. Arian Foster finally returned from injury this past weekend, but only had eight carries for 10 yards. However, one look at last year showed that Foster really only needed one game back before he roared back to life. If that is the case, Foster's return could really open up the passing game for Houston and help them right their wrongs. Foster could be Mallett's or Hoyer's best friend.
For his entire career, Andre Johnson was the number one receiver in Houston. He will end up in the NFL Hall of Fame one day and will finish his career as one of the top five receivers of all time statistically. However, the Texans made it clear they didn't trust him as their number one guy anymore and let him go in the offseason. Johnson signed with the Colts and now has the best quarterback of his entire career, but he hasn't put up numbers yet this season. In four games, Johnson has only seven receptions for 20 yards. This is the game many Texans and Johnson fans circled on their calendars and one has to wonder if this is where Johnson finally breaks out.
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