Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans. Fans support on NFL Game. Silhouette of supporters, big screen with two rivals in background.
Indianapolis Colts (0-0) vs Houston Texans (0-0)
Game Time: Sunday, Sept 11, 12 pm CT
TV/Radio: CBS / KILT 610AM
What’s at stake: Behind new head coach Lovie Smith, the rebuilding Texans look to improve upon last season’s 4-13 record. Davis Mills is the unquestioned starting QB, Dameon Pierce is the new lead RB, and the offensive line has had a few changes. The Colts have lost eight consecutive Week 1 games and enter the year with Matt Ryan as their new starting QB. This is the sixth straight season the Colts will begin the year with a new starting QB. Last season, the Colts defeated the Texans by scores of 31-3 and 31-0.
When the Texans have the ball: Rookie RB Dameon Pierce has been a beast in the preseason and claimed the top RB spot. Look for the Texans to try to get him going early, as the team wants to be physical at the point of attack. The Texans will finally play with their full offensive line and their top WR, Brandin Cooks. Cooks and Mills developed a strong rapport last year and continued to develop it in the offseason. Cooks is a target monster for the Texans. The team is looking for second-year WR Nico Collins to take a step forward as an impact player. Second-year TE Brevin Jordan and newly signed veteran TE OJ Howard can be red zone targets.
When the Colts have the ball: Jonathan Taylor led the NFL in rushing last season with 332 carries, 1811 yards, and 18 rushing TDs, all of which were league highs. His 2171 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns rushing and receiving were also league highs. He is the start and end of everything the Colts do on offense. Last season, in two games against the Texans, Taylor ran for 288 yards and 4 TDs. Matt Ryan, now age 37, is entering his 15th season in the NFL but first with Indy. He will be asked to steer the ship and make the occasional big throw. WR Michael Pittman Jr will be his top target.
Key Texans to watch:
RB Dameon Pierce: The rookie from Florida stole the show on the ground in camp and preseason, seizing the top RB job and making both Marlon Mack and Royce Freeman, at least temporarily, expendable. He runs with tremendous power but has more burst and elusiveness than previously thought. The offense moved much crisper when he played in the preseason. The Texans’ run game has been among the league’s worst for the past few seasons, and they hope Pierce can be the focal point of correcting that.
CB Derek Stingley Jr: Chosen with the 3rd overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Stingley will step right in as a starter and be asked to be the team’s lead corner. Teams did not throw the ball in his direction in the preseason, and he showed tremendous closing speed while in coverage. Stingley was a huge impact player at LSU, but injury sabotaged his last year in college. Now healthy, the defense will rely upon him to be a shutdown corner from the start.
DE Jon Greenard: Greenard is the leader of the Texans’ revamped pass rush, which surprised in the preseason with consistent penetration and pressure. Greenard had eight sacks in 12 games last season, and an entire season with a better complement of players around him has the team excited for a big season from the third-year player.
QB Davis Mills: Mills’ final five games of the 2021 season were very impressive and the best of any rookie QB last season. The Texans are looking for Mills to take a few steps forward this season and show he can be their franchise QB. Mills was viewed as someone who could have gone in the first round of the draft if he stayed in school one more season, but he came out early, and Nick Caserio made Mills the first pick he selected as Texans GM in the 3rd round in 2021. While some were concerned the Texans offense seemed inconsistent in the preseason, OC Pep Hamilton admitted that the team had “a governor” on Mills in the preseason, but that will not be the case for Week 1 of the regular season. A strong showing from Mills behind a reconstructed offensive line the team hopes will generate a better push in the run game, and more protection in the passing attack will put many concerns about Mills to rest.
The bottom line: The Colts have won 4 straight vs. the Texans, 7 of 8, and 9 of 11, dating back to 2017. For the Colts to ascend to the top of the division, taking both games against the Texans is likely a must. The Texans have openly spoken about how badly the Colts beat them last season and how they want to even the scorecard with Indy. Each week will be a referendum on Davis Mills, fair or not. Early success, especially against a division rival that has historically had their number, will also help win back fans who became disenfranchised with the team over the past two years.