What to watch for in Colts-Texans on Thursday night

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Thursday night's matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans will be for sole possession of first place in the AFC South.

Here's what to watch for as J.J. Watt chases Andrew Luck around the gridiron:

COWBOYS AT BEARS
Thursday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m. ET
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Pregame show starts at 6 p.m. ET on NFL Network.


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1. Watt is playing at a higher level on the defensive line than we have seen since at least Reggie White's prime -- and perhaps ever. He's the most relentless player on the field every time he walks through the obnoxious inflatable helmet at the end of the tunnel. He leads the NFL with 16 hits, which is more than eight NFL teams have generated this season. Although Luck has put on a pocket-presence clinic of late, Watt enjoys an inviting matchup against a Colts offensive line that will be without injured starting guards Jack Mewhort and Hugh Thornton.

2. If this intra-division rivalry comes down to the final minutes, the Colts have a major advantage at quarterback. The NFL's best late-game quarterback since he came out of Stanford, Luck is also leading the league in yards and touchdowns through five weeks. He has more game-winning drives through two seasons than any quarterback since at least 1960. Ryan Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, has struggled to consistently move the chains in Houston, managing just two touchdown drives per game.

3. Arian Foster has averaged 150.4 yards per in five career meetings with the Colts. Foster bounced back from his hamstring injury in impressive fashion last week, totaling 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Cowboys. No team has run the ball on a higher percentage of plays this season. This will be a good test for an Indianapolis defense that played its best in Week 5.

4. Colts 2013 first-round pick Bjoern Werner finally lived up to his lofty draft slot last week, sacking Joe Flacco twice and adding a couple more hurries. He will have his hands full with Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown this week after feasting on Ravens undrafted rookie James Hurst. On the bright side, Chuck Pagano's defense has 11 sacks in the last three games after generating just one in the first two games.

5. Over the past two weeks, Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has started to get physical tight end Dwayne Allen more involved at Coby Fleener's expense. That's the way it should be. Allen is the better player and Luck's most effective red-zone target.

6. Keep an eye on the Andre Johnson-Vontae Davis matchup. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 12.3 when targeting Davis, the lowest figure in the league among cornerbacks with at least 10 targets. Johnson's current drought of 12 consecutive games without a touchdown is the longest of his storied career.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses the top 10 disappointments and breaks down the surprising NFC East. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL Now.

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