The flailing Texans (1-3) are battling to save their season while the Colts (2-2) are looking to reestablish dominance in the AFC South. Home-field advantage helps Houston during a short week, but their disastrous duo of unimpressive passers does not. Indy, meanwhile, is expected to start Matt Hasselbeck under center ahead of a banged-up Andrew Luck in this divisional showdown.
Here's what we'll be watching for:
- The Colts are preparing for life without Andrew Luck (shoulder) for a second straight week. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that backup Matt Hasselbeck flew to Houston with the expectation that he will start against the Texans. Both quarterbacks are listed as questionable, with Hasselbeck battling a virus that landed him in the hospital until early Tuesday morning. The Texans won't miss Luck, who has fried them with a 14:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio during his 5-1 record against Houston since 2012. Hasselbeck -- at 40, the oldest non-kicker in the NFL -- played admirably in last week's win over the Jaguars, but this remains a completely different team sans Luck.
- We harbored high hopes for Frank Gore in Indy's offense. The former 49ers star has played better over the past two weeks, but Gore has lost a pair of fumbles inside the opponent's 5-yard line this season. He's the only player in the NFL to lose the ball twice in the red zone, leading the 32-year-old to acknowledge, per The Indianapolis Star: "I'm frustrated at myself. Tired of putting us in bad positions ... I don't know what it is, but (I) gotta fix it."
- As a starter, Brian Hoyer ranks above Ryan Mallett in completion percentage, yards per game and passer rating in 2015, but the numbers mean little: Both Texans quarterbacks have been flaming junk. Hoyer was benched after one game for a passer in Mallett who lacks any semblance of touch. Weirdly, their numbers are much better in relief of each other. Both Mallett and Hoyer have thrived off the bench, lending credence to our suggested fix for this scattershot passing game: Rotate the pair series by series, reminiscent of Dan Reeves flip-flopping between Shawn Moore and Tommy Maddox during a wild Broncos tilt with the Cowboysback in 1992. Why not? The Texans are spiraling toward a top-10 draft pick and will undoubtedly reboot the quarterback position in the offseason. Travel the unorthodox road!
- Yes, Andre Johnson is facing his old team, but the former Texans star has done zip for the Colts. His seven catches for 51 yards all came over the first two tilts of the season and reveal what Johnson is at age 34: A veteran buried on the roster behind T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. We wastedplenty of ink on this overhypedoffseasonsigning and we won't write another word until Johnson makes an impact for this up-and-down offense. Ultimately, "The Boss" has it right:
- With all the issues under center, Houston won't mess around with Arian Foster. After the team's foundation back "rumbled" for 10 yards off eight carries in Week 4, look for coach Bill O'Brien to feed Foster generously against a Colts defense that has allowed 400-plus yards in back-to-back games while surrendering an NFL-worst 21 plays of 20-plus yards. Indy will certainly miss Henry Anderson, the promising rookie defensive lineman who is questionable with a foot injury.