- Jacoby Brissett looks to continue his dominant ways against this Texans defense
- Expect Eberful, Gannon and company to continue to slow down Watson
- I am on the Colts to cover 3.5 in a tight in division rivalry game
IND Offense vs HOU Defense:
- Unfortunately, Marlon Mack is out for this game and the Colts backfield is a jumbled mess.
- Last week, Jonathan Williams led the Colts with 13 carries for 116 yards. Jordan Wilkins did not play in that game but is expected back tonight.
- Williams broke three of his 13 carries for a gain of over 10 yards. He could do some of the same against a Texans defense that is 24th in explosive run percentage allowed and is 27th in open field yards allowed. If Williams can break through the first two levels, he could be off to the races.
- Expect Nyheim Hines to be heavily involved for the Colts, especially in the passing game. He has been targeted 11 times in the last two weeks and has caught 7 for 54 yards.
- Houston has allowed the most targets to RBs this season at 85 and the fourth highest target percentage to RBs at 23%. They are also 26th in DVOA defense against those RB targets, 30th in yards per attempt and have allowed the most yards to RBs in the NFL at 64. Last week, Mark Ingram had his best receiving game of the season against Houston, with 37 yards and 2 TDs.
- Houston ranks dead last in pressures generated per drop back and that includes games with J.J. Watt. We already know how good the Colts OL is, so expect Jacoby Brissett to have plenty of time to find his WRs. Brissett is ninth among all NFL QBs in passer rating with a clean pocket.
- As of this writing, T.Y. Hilton is questionable, and he has long been a big key to this offense’s success. Last Sunday’s win over Jacksonville was the first Colts win without Hilton in six games. In the games where Hilton has played, the Colts’ success rate passing is 11th best at 49%. In the four games Hilton has missed, the Colts passing success rate plummets to 39%, 29th in the NFL in that stretch.
- In the games Hilton has missed, the Colts’ target share has been split 18% to RBs, 30% to TEs and 52% to WRs. In the games Hilton has played the splits have been 20%, 30%, 50%. So nearly identical target share splits no matter whether he has played.
- Brissett has historically been excellent against this Texans defense. He is 4-0 straight up lifetime against Houston with 7 TDs, 0 INT, 7.5 yards per attempt, and a 107.2 QB rating. As QB of the Colts, it’s even better. He is 3-0, completing 65% of his passes, 8 yards per attempt with 7 TDs and no INTs. He has two 300+ yard games and considering he has only four such games his entire career, it is obvious he enjoys feasting on this secondary.
HOU Offense vs IND Defense:
- After a horrible performance last week, expect a bounce back from Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense.
- Watson is 9-2 straight up in his career following a loss. 23 TD and 5 INT in those games following a loss in his career. Houston is 7-4 ats following a loss under Watson.
- Prior to halftime last week, Watson’s ankle got rolled up on and he ended the game with only 12 rushing yards on three carries. Keep an eye to see if Watson is hobbling on that ankle and if he is hesitant to run the ball. He had rushed for at least 32 yards in each of the prior five games.
- Opposite of Brissett’s tremendous history against Houston, Watson has struggled against this Colts defensive scheme the last two years. Including the playoffs, Watson has completed 66% of his passes for 7.2 yards per attempt, 5 TDs, and 4 INTs in four games against the Colts. Houston is 1-3 straight up in those games and his only win was by three in OT last season when Frank Reich decided to go for it on fourth down from his own territory in OT. In all other games in his career, Watson has completed 67% of his throws, 8.1 yards per attempt and a 2.9 TD/INT ratio.
- A reason why Watson has struggled a bit against Indy’s defense is the scheme. No team runs more zone defense the last two seasons than the Colts and when they mix in exotic stunts and bluffs, QBs can get confused. The key to the Colts defense is not allowing big plays and forcing QBs like Watson to take the underneath throws. Credit to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and secondary coach Jonathan Gannon for taking a bunch of no name guys in the secondary and creating a scheme to maximize the talent on that defense.
- The Colts’ defensive scheme lends itself to throws down the middle of the field and in the first game, Watson attempted 20 of his 34 throws down the middle. He completed 17 of the 20 for 219 yards. What’s interesting is the Colts defense is 2nd best in the NFL on throws to the left side of the field, according to Football Outsiders. Watson went 2-7 for 16 yards and an INT to the left in the first matchup. Keep an eye on how often Watson looks left tonight.
- A huge key to solving this Colts defensive riddle will be the health of Will Fuller. Nobody in the Colts secondary can match up with Fuller’s speed so if Watson has time to take a few deep shots that could open things up underneath for Hopkins. Fuller was injured early in the first game and it really affected the Texans passing game. On a short week, it’s hard to imagine Fuller would play a large percentage of the snaps but just his presence could be huge tonight.
- The Colts defense is surprisingly seventh overall in success rate and 13th in DVOA defense, which adjusts for strength of the opponent. The Indianapolis defense has really stepped up whenever they have faced a top offense this season. Against the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, in perhaps the single best defensive performance by any NFL team this season, and with a depleted secondary, the Colts held Patrick Mahomes and company to only 13 points, 324 total yards and 5.7 yards per play. The Chiefs have averaged 35 points and 6.9 yards per play in all other games with Mahomes. Again, just a tremendous job by Eberflus and Gannon by using much more man coverage and confusing the Chiefs.
- The Texans could find some success in the run game, which is where the Colts are weak. The Colts are 23rd in DVOA run defense and are 18th in yards per carry allowed against a schedule of opponent offenses that rank 23rd in yards per carry. In the first matchup, the Texans could not get anything going in the run game, with their RBs rushing 19 times for 69 yards.
- The Colts have historically been susceptible to TEs and have allowed the eighth highest target share to TEs this season. However, they’ve done a nice job defending the TEs, allowing the 13th lowest success rate and 5th lowest yards per attempt in the NFL.
Side I like tonight: (Colts 3.5 -110 5Dimes)
I am on the Colts +3.5 tonight. On a short week I always like having the side with the much better coaching staff. Reich, Eberflus, Gannon, etc. are multiple notches above Bill O’Brien and company. They have proven capable of stifling Watson more than the rest of the NFL and I expect a better game plan than what O’Brien will or can come up with on a short week. I also like the fact that Reich is extremely aggressive and truly understands the +EV of going for it on 4th downs, whereas the Texans are notorious for not allowing Watson to go for it on 4th downs.
Since Reich took over last season, the Colts are very good as underdogs of 3 or more. The Colts are 6-1 ats as underdogs of 3+ and won 4 of the 7 games outright. Brissett has covered 4 straight as an underdog, including 3-0 this season in games he has finished (excluding the Steelers game in week 10).
Although, in general, backing favorites on TNF has been profitable, doing so with home favorites in division has essentially hovered around 50%. But home favorites of 3.5+ late in the season (week 10 and on), have only produced a 48% ats win percentage (198-216-7) since 1999. On TNF, home favorites in division of 3.5+ are 16-17 ats. I will always prefer backing a competitive team, of greater than 3, in division late in the season. Especially one with a big coaching advantage and historical success against their opponent.