Colts offense vs. Texans defense
Jadeveon Clowney still has the athletic talent to be the dominant player he was drafted to be. He showed some flashes of what he could become late in the year against the Patriots and the Bills. He has become a solid run defender, but it’s his ability as a pass rusher, which has only been seen in bursts so far, that made him the top pick in the 2014 draft.
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Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt both enjoyed good seasons in 2015. Watt led the league in sacks once again with 17.5 and Mercilus had a career high 12. As a team the Texans were fifth in the NFL with 45 sacks. However, only three of them came in the two games against the Colts last season.
With Vince Wilfork inside and Brian Cushing in the middle, the Texans should be able to contain whatever running game the Colts might throw out next season. The Colts haven’t had a standout runner since Joseph Addai left.
In the secondary, the Texans have the depth to match up with the Colts skilled receivers. Johnathan Joseph is still going strong, Kareem Jackson is solid and 2015 first round pick Kevin Johnson are all skilled in coverage. Andre Hal is a ballhawking corner that could see a lot of time against other team’s fourth receivers this season.
Andrew Luck will return for the Colts this season, and he will be one of the frontrunners for comeback player of the year. Injuries cost him nine games last season, and hampered him when he did play. He had rough games to open the season against the Bills and Jets and just never got in sync last year before being shut down for the year after week nine. There are still talented players on this offense in T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Donte Moncrief and former first round pick Philip Dorsett, but questions still remain at running back and along the offensive line, which have seemingly gone unanswered for years.
Frank Gore led the team in rushing in every single game last year but did not rush for more than 100 yards in any game. The closest he came was 98 against the Texans in Houston. Colt quarterbacks were sacked 37 times last season, more than twice a game.
Still, prior to his down 2015 season Luck looked like he was quickly ascending into the territory of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as the cream of the crop among NFL quarterbacks. I think he will get back to form next year assuming he is completely healthy. In the five games Luck started the Colts were 2-5 and he threw multiple interceptions in five of those games.
His two best games were home games against the Patriots and Broncos, in which he threw for five touchdowns and no picks; defeating the eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos at home. The upset win over the then undefeated Broncos followed an overtime loss at Carolina where they got behind early, then Luck led them back but then an interception set up the game winning field goal of the Panthers. It’s clear that Luck has the talent that made him worthy of the top pick in the 2012 draft, and I expect him to return to that level next season.
I give the Colts the edge here, simply because of Luck. He is 5-1 in his career against Houston and has thrown 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions in those games. With the speed outside in Hilton and Dorsett the Colts should be able to get behind the Texans’ new starting safety duo, whomever they turn out to be.