AFC South: Indianapolis Colts

Colts vs. Titans preview

December, 25, 2014
Dec 25
video When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: LP Field, Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Indianapolis Colts are eager to clean things up and feel more ready for the playoffs. The Tennessee Titans are eager to end a miserable season and move on.

The NFL fills its final week with divisional matchups in hopes of finding more meaningful games. It works overall, but in this instance it pairs teams that are at opposite ends of the AFC South.

Indianapolis (10-5) crushed Tennessee (2-13) at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sept. 28 by the score of 41-14. They wrap the regular season at LP Field on Sunday. Colts reporter Mike Wells joined Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky to discuss the game.

Wells: It's been a long time since these two teams have met -- Week 4 -- and it's been nine weeks since the Titans won a game. What has been their biggest problem this season?

Kuharsky: Name it. They don’t convert third downs to extend drives, they don’t run the ball well, and they haven’t had any continuity at quarterback. Defensively, they don’t stop the run -- this could be the long-awaited week where Trent Richardson busts out -- and they don’t tackle well. They do OK pressuring the quarterback, but it’s virtually all blitz-generated.

Speaking of blitz-generated ... do the Colts blitz a lot to make up for not having a great rusher? They got to Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst three times in the first meeting.

Wells: Blitzing is the best chance the Colts have at getting after the quarterback, because their defensive front is not good enough to apply consistent pressure. That goes back to the earlier comment about the Colts’ inability to have success against most pocket-passing quarterbacks. Blitz Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and they will pick you apart. Sit back in a zone, and those quarterbacks will have plenty of time to decide where they want to throw the ball. The Colts have spent the season hoping somebody would step up to help fill the void left by Robert Mathis' absence. That hasn’t happened, which is why they've had to spend a lot of time blitzing this season.

I assume it's safe to say the injured Jake Locker is not the answer at quarterback. Do you believe the Titans will look at drafting a quarterback -- possibly Jameis Winston -- with their pick in the first round?

Kuharsky: Locker’s deal is up and he will land elsewhere. The Titans have blown a No. 3 pick on Vince Young and a No. 8 pick on Locker in a span of six years. Those failures are a big part of why they are where they are. My guess is that they will keep Zach Mettenberger (also injured) and try to find someone he has to beat out for the job. But Oregon's Marcus Mariota needs to run around some to be his best, and Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt is a pocket-passer devotee. Winston’s baggage has to be a concern. It seems it would be ideal if they landed a top-two pick and then dealt it to a team that wants one of the top quarterback prospects. With more quality picks, they could address a number of areas where they aren’t good enough.

Indianapolis’ defense is very much middle-of-the-pack. How have the Colts managed to be so good on third down?

Wells: A lot has to do with the opponent. In the Colts' 10 victories, their D held opponents to a 24.9 percent success rate on third down. In four games, the opposition converted only one third down. The only team the Colts have beaten that has locked up a playoff spot is Cincinnati, and the Bengals were 1-of-13 on third downs against Indianapolis in October. Things have been drastically different for the Colts in their five losses. Teams that have beaten the Colts have converted 53 percent of their third downs. The common theme for the teams that have beaten the Colts is that all their quarterbacks are pocket passers, a serious area of concern for the Colts.

What is the window on Whisenhunt as coach? Will the Titans' front office give him a fair chance to get things turned around?

Kuharsky: Tommy Smith, who heads the ownership group and is the team president and CEO, has publicly backed both Whisenhunt and general manager Ruston Webster. I don’t see a change coming at either spot, but the tide needs to start changing in a hurry, or they could both be done after the 2015 season. Whisenhunt was entirely too inflexible in his first season, failing to bend his system to fit what he inherited. Webster’s 2014 draft class was pretty good, but his record with free agents beyond Delanie Walker and the injured Bernard Pollard is horrific.

I saw the Colts hand off three times in their first possession in Dallas before punting. Are they still of the thinking that they must run and find balance? If so, why is that? Why don’t they turn QB Andrew Luck loose and take their chances?

Wells: Colts coach Chuck Pagano said this week that his team has to be able to run the football in the playoffs. The reality is, any chance for the Colts to have a successful running game ended on the night of Nov. 16, when running back Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season with a fractured fibula. Things were working well with the Bradshaw-Richardson duo. The Richardson-Boom Herron duo? The same can’t be said. That was evident when the Colts rushed for 1 yard -- yes, 1 yard -- against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. That means Luck will have to lead the Colts if they expect to have any chance of making a run in the playoffs. And at this moment, the Colts don’t even appear to be a team that can win its wild-card playoff game.

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts ageless kicker Adam Vinatieri earned his third Pro Bowl appearance on Tuesday.

Next up for him is perfection.

Vinatieri has an opportunity to finish with a perfect season as long as he doesn’t miss any of his attempts against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, which happens to be his 42nd birthday. He’s 28-of-28 this season and has made 34 straight attempts. Former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt (37 of 37, 2003) and Gary Anderson (35 of 35, 1998 Minnesota Vikings) are the other kickers to have perfect seasons with at least 20 field-goal attempts.

“That’s always your goal,” Vinatieri said. “Seasons are long and there are lots of things that go on. I never look at the beginning of the year and say I’m going to try to do this. I never look that far out. I’m always trying to have a big game one at a time and see where things end up at the end.”

Perfection is nice and all, but at Vinatieri’s age, it's even more impressive. He is nailing 50-yard field goals when most football players are enjoying retirement.

He entered the league in 1996. How long ago was that?

Quarterback Andrew Luck was 7. Rookie receiver Donte Moncrief was only 3.

“That just means he’s good at what he does and that he’s proven he has a place in the NFL,” punter and holder Pat McAfee said earlier this season. “He’s the greatest.”

Vinatieri’s dedication is evident. He lost about eight pounds in the offseason, said he gets more sleep at night and improved his nutrition. He spent time talking to receiver Griff Whalen, who doesn’t eat meat.

“I play a position that you can get away with a little extra weight,” Vinatieri said. “I was trying to recommit myself. Every year, the older you get, the more determined, the stricter you have to be about everything. I try to get myself to bed at a good time. I try and to make sure I’m up and eating right. It’s still a challenge at that point, but I know my body needs the right nutrition and needs the right amount of rest to perform well.”

Vinatieri doesn’t want to put a timetable on how long he plans to continue playing. He plans to at least finish his contract through the end of next season.

At this rate, Vinatieri could probably still make field goals until he’s almost 50.
INDIANAPOLIS -- You don't have to worry about Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano resting any of his starters in Sunday's regular-season finale at Tennessee on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Pagano plans to play all his healthy starters against the Titans.

It's a good move because the Colts aren't in a position to rest their starters considering how they've played over the past month.

"You want to go down there and you want to play well," Pagano said. "You want to win a football game. You want to compete. We've got to play better obviously than we played yesterday. You want to have momentum going into the playoffs and the only way I know to do that is to go down there and play well and try to win a football game. So that's what we'll prepare for."

The Colts are 4-1 in their last five games. The wins are nice and all, but their overall production on the field is nothing to be proud of heading into the playoffs.

They've committed 15 turnovers in the past five games, the offensive line is dealing with injuries and not blocking well, they ran for a total of one yard against the Cowboys and the defense isn't ready to face a pocket passer in the playoffs.

Those things are reason enough for Pagano to play his starters against the Titans.

"You want to go in feeling good about yourself," the Colts' coach said. "Nobody wants to go through a day like we went through [Sunday]. But you've got to bounce back and you've got to keep moving forward. We better prepare, we better practice and do the right things, try to clean up what we can clean up in a short amount of time and go play well and come out of that game hopefully with a win and try to get your mojo back and get feeling good about yourself. That's obvious. Hopefully we'll get some guys back. Definitely you'd love to go in on a winning note."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts are expected to have receiver T.Y. Hilton back for Sunday’s regular-season finale at the Tennessee Titans, coach Chuck Pagano said.

Hilton missed Sunday’s blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys because of a hamstring injury. Quarterback Andrew Luck could have used Hilton, too. Luck only completed three passes for more than 10 yards and threw for a career-low 109 yards before being taken out of the game in the third quarter.

As far as other injured players go, tight end Dwayne Allen had an MRI on his knee and Pagano is calling him day-to-day. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman is also day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on his hamstring. Allen and Freeman both left Sunday’s game early with their injuries.

Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, who missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury, is expected to do some field work at the team’s practice facility Tuesday. Xavier Nixon started at right tackle in place of Cherilus and really struggled. He was called for two penalties, including one on a 24-yard completion.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts talked about wanting continuity on the offensive line this season.

That hasn’t been the case, as they could be using their ninth different starting lineup on the line against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Right tackle Gosder Cherilus has been ruled out for the game and Xavier Nixon will likely start there for the Colts. Offensive linemen Hugh Thornton (knee) and Joe Reitz (ankle) also have been ruled out against the Cowboys. Lance Louis is expected to start at right guard for the second straight week.

Here’s the rest of the injury report for the Colts:
INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton missed practice Wednesday because of the hamstring injury he suffered in the second half of Sunday’s victory over the Houston Texans.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Monday that he had hoped for Hilton to practice Wednesday or Thursday this week. “We’re going to take it day to day and I’m hopeful that he’ll be available [Sunday at Dallas],” Pagano said Wednesday.

The Colts had seven other players listed on their injury report who didn’t practice. Return specialist Joshua Cribbs (rest), cornerback Vontae Davis (groin), offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (groin), linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (rest), offensive guard Joe Reitz (ankle), offensive guard Hugh Thornton (knee) and linebacker Erik Walden (knee).
INDIANAPOLIS -- They walked back to the huddle after most of the runs, embarrassed. They walked off the field with their heads down after being humiliated. Their pride was squashed.

All because of New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray, who ran through, around and past them for 201 yards on Nov. 16.

Something had to change for the Indianapolis Colts' defense after their pitiful performance against the Patriots.

Change is what has taken place in the past four weeks. The Colts have given up an average of 103 yards a game, more than seven yards below their season average, during their current four-game winning streak.

"This is a group of prideful men," Colts cornerback Darius Butler said. "New England came in our house and ran the ball down our throats basically. It felt like we didn't have a chance the whole game. We learned from that. You take your licks and move on and hopefully get better. I feel like we've done that."

It has been a process, but the Colts are improving with their run defense. They finished 26th in the league in stopping the run last season. They're currently 16th.

"We've got a prideful group over there and they're playing well," coach Chuck Pagano said. "They're playing together, all 11 guys doing their job, not trying to do too much, which tends to get you in trouble. Front seven working together, tackling well. Effort's been there. All those things add up to being able to play good run defense."

The list of quarterbacks the Colts have faced during their winning streak is far from impressive -- Blake Bortles, Colt McCoy, Brian Hoyer, Tom Savage, Ryan Fitzpatrick -- which makes what they've done with their run defense even more impressive, because the running game was even more important for Jacksonville, Washington, Cleveland and Houston, respectively.

Houston's Arian Foster, who was averaging 143 yards against the Colts for his career, ran for only 99 yards against them last weekend.

"We took it personal what Jonas Gray did to us," safety Mike Adams said. "Everyone thought they were going to run the ball on us. That's all people wanted to do after that, pound and run the ball on us. We were forced to take that personal. We've been doing a good job of making teams one-dimensional. We're going to have a big test next week against Dallas."

The test may not be as big as the Colts think, because running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL's leading rusher (1,687 yards), had surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand Monday. His status for Sunday's game in Dallas is up in the air.

The Cowboys, according to Cowboys reporter Todd Archer, will use Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar as the main running backs against the Colts if Murray doesn't play.

"I understand that he has a hand injury and possibly a broken bone. I don't know, I just heard about it myself so I don't know about what's going to happen with that, whether he'll play or not," Pagano said Monday. "I fully expect him to be out there and that's how we'll prepare, but the run defense has been outstanding."

INDIANAPOLIS -- Sit key players or rest them in the final two games?

That's the position the Indianapolis Colts are in now that they've won the AFC South and clinched a playoff spot.

"[We will] if we see a window for not only [receiver] Reggie [Wayne], but anybody else, who has some nagging injuries," coach Chuck Pagano said. "We're going to play 16 games and we're going to try to prepare to try to win the football game, forget being in the playoffs or not. That's just our mindset, that's how we roll and so if a guy needs some time because he's injured and he needs some time to heal up, then we'll make that decision."

The Colts didn't rest players after wrapping up a playoff spot in each of Pagano's first two seasons.

You can expect Pagano to play his starters against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, but his tune could change after this weekend's game depending on where they are in the playoff race and because they've got several players dealing with injuries.

The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots will have to lose their final two games and the Colts will have to win their final two games in order for Indianapolis to move up to one of the top two spots and earn a bye in the first week of the playoffs. The Colts are also trying to hold off Cincinnati for the No. 3 seed, which is huge in avoiding the Patriots in the second week of the playoffs.

"You never know what's going to happen," Pagano said. "We can control how we're going to play Sunday. I don't know what's going to happen in the rest of the division and conference. We're going to do everything we can to give ourselves the best possible chance in the playoffs."

The three key players who have been dealing with injuries are Wayne (tricep), fellow receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) and right tackle Gosder Cherilus (shoulder).

Don't even think about Pagano telling quarterback Andrew Luck he's going to sit out a game. That's likely not going to happen.

"You have to live. You go tell him," Pagano joked to a reporter when asked about Luck. "That's the way he is. Now we have to make decisions and do the right thing and protect guys from themselves in the right situation."
INDIANAPOLIS -- It was anybody's guess how Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne would react on Sunday because it was more than just facing the Houston Texans for the veteran.

It was Wayne's 209th game as a Colt, putting him ahead of Peyton Manning in the franchise record book.

[+] EnlargeReggie Wayne
AJ Mast/AP PhotoThe Colts' Week 15 victory marked a special game for Indianapolis veteran receiver Reggie Wayne.
And by game's end, the Colts had a 17-10 victory and Wayne moved ahead of Manning -- again -- for most victories in franchise history with 142.

"Very, very special," coach Chuck Pagano said. "We gave out one game ball and that was to Reggie. We talk about availability all the time. He's been available for a long, long time, and he's always showed up. One hundred forty-two wins, all-time franchise record. Really glad that things worked out the way that they worked out especially for that player. He embodies everything that we talk about. ...He's going to be in the Ring of Honor at some point. He'll be in the Hall of Fame at some point."

Wayne, who will decide if he'll retire after the season, had no interest in talking about his latest feat. He has his sight set on getting better and getting ready for the playoffs like the rest of his teammates.

"I don't have the time to sit back and take it all in," Wayne said. "Maybe I'll do that this offseason. I'm not really able to really sit back and enjoy everything until the offseason hits and then I'm kind of able to put things into perspective. ...I can't do it without those guys in the locker room, training staff, equipment guys. It's bigger than me. It's everyone that's involved with me that deserves a game ball. At some point in time, it'll sink in, but like we always say, we're going to enjoy this one for the rest of the day, and tomorrow, we got to start thinking about our next opponent."

Wayne didn't light up the stat sheet -- totaling four catches for 24 yards -- but he didn't drop any passes after dropping three against Cleveland the previous week and he didn't suffer any more injures. He's dealing with a torn tricep and is wearing a sleeve on his left arm.

It'll be surprising if the Colts, who are the AFC's No. 3 seed at the moment, rest Wayne in the final two games against Dallas and Tennessee because they still have an outside shot to get one of the top two spots in the AFC and they're trying to hold off Cincinnati, which is currently the fourth seed.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Observed and heard in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room after their 17-10 victory over the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • Luck
    Three-for-three: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck entered the interview room with a wide smile on his face and an AFC South championship hat on his head. Luck is headed back to the playoffs for the third time in three years, and he’s won division titles in two of those years. That’s not a bad start to his NFL career. “You understand you don’t take it for granted, but you’ve got to do something with it,” Luck said. “We realize we’ve got two games to go until we need to start thinking about that, though.” Luck isn’t the only Colts player who is heading to the playoffs in his first three seasons. Receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen were also part of the 2012 draft class for Indianapolis.
  • 13 straight: The city of Indianapolis hasn't been good to Houston. The Texans have lost 13 straight games to the Colts in Indianapolis. Sunday's loss severely hurt Houston's chances of making the playoffs. "It was a playoff game for them," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We knew coming in that just after their last game; we all saw the speech in the locker room. That was a great win, but they started talking about this game. We know the importance, how important it was for them. They're trying to get in the playoffs. They're trying to win the division. They're trying to take what we have."
  • Hilton injured: Hilton left the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. He was scheduled to be evaluated Sunday evening. Hilton finished with four catches for 50 yards.
  • Bradshaw appears: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, out for the season with a fractured fibula, was in the locker room with left leg in a cast, moving around on a scooter to help out while also wearing an AFC South championship hat.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14

INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 17-10 victory against the Houston Texans on Sunday:

What it means: The Colts continued their domination in the AFC South by winning the division for the second straight season. But it’s not just about winning the division for the Colts, who have won 12 straight division games. It’s about showing they’re ready to challenge in the AFC. That’s not the case based off their performance the past few weeks. The Colts struggled against a Houston Texans team that was without receiver Andre Johnson and lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a leg injury in the first half. Indianapolis, which has won four straight, should feel fortunate it is facing teams that have marginal quarterbacks because these close victories would likely be losses against playoff-caliber teams. The Colts gained a season-low 279 yards.

Stock watch: The Colts’ defense played well for the second straight week. They held the Texans to 289 total yards and stood their ground on fourth down in the fourth quarter. Safety Sergio Brown broke up a pass on a throw intended for DeAndre Hopkins on third down on the Texans' final drive. Then Vontae Davis intercepted quarterback Tom Savage to seal the game for the Colts.

At the top: Receiver Reggie Wayne finished with only four catches for 24 yards, but he moved past Peyton Manning for the most games played (209) in franchise history and most wins in franchise history (142). Wayne, who is dealing with a torn tricep, lost a fumble in the first half. Luckily for him and the Colts, though, the Texans didn’t take advantage of the opportunity because they fumbled on the very next play. Linebacker Bjoern Werner recovered the loose ball.

Turnover woes: Quarterback Andrew Luck’s turnover problems continued. He threw an interception that was returned 27 yards for a touchdown by Texans safety Kendrick Lewis. Luck now has 20 turnovers -- 14 interceptions and six fumbles -- this season. He has thrown seven interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns the past three years. Only New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has thrown more interceptions returned for touchdowns than Luck. Luck finished 18-of-34 for 187 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Game ball: Running back Daniel “Boom” Herron didn’t rush for 100 yards. He didn’t even have a touchdown. What he did, though, is prove yet again that he deserves to be the Colts’ primary running back over the disappointing Trent Richardson. Herron finished with 11 carries for 60 yards. Richardson had 32 yards on nine carries.

What’s next: The Colts close out the regular season by playing their final two games on the road, starting at Dallas on Dec. 21.
INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne will be on the field for his 209th game with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

How effective he’ll be is unknown. Wayne’s dealing with a torn triceps that he doesn’t enjoy talking about.

All that matters to him is that he’ll playing and he’ll be doing his best to help the Colts beat the Houston Texans so that they can wrap up the AFC South for the second straight season.

“If I’m out there playing, then I’m good,” Wayne said. “Point blank.”

End of story.

Wayne originally injured his elbow against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 19. He missed one game and he told coach Chuck Pagano that he was fine.

“I told him I was good; I could make it work. I’m not going to put myself in no danger,” Wayne said.

Wayne will not only pass Peyton Manning for most games played in franchise history Sunday. He could also pass Manning for most wins in franchise history. Both players have won 141 games with the Colts.

“The only thing I’m worrying about is going out there and competing, and being out there with my teammates and just knowing that we have another home game,” Wayne said. “We know how important defending our turf is and we’ve got a hungry Texans team coming in. That’s all I’ve been focused on; nothing more, nothing less. So yeah, maybe down the road when I’m sitting somewhere chilling, it will start to register then.”
INDIANAPOLIS – The nights just weren’t the same for Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis.

Getting at least eight hours of sleep turned into a sleepless night, and he felt like he had been up for 24 hours straight.

All because of the angle he took trying to make a tackle, the same type of tackle he made six weeks earlier.

But this time, the running back won the battle and Davis paid the price.

Davis, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, has spent nearly the past two weeks going through the NFL’s concussion protocol.

He suffered the concussion when he bounced off Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu on a pass in the flat in the third quarter of the Nov. 30 game.

Davis tried to lead with his shoulder on the tackle attempt against Helu but instead ended up hitting him with his helmet. Davis lay on the ground momentarily before making his way to the sideline.

“This concussion was way worse than the one I got in college [at Illinois],” Davis said. “I don’t wish that upon anybody. I’ve looked at the play because I don’t remember what happened. My sleep was never comfortable. Felt like I was up all night."

The Washington game was last time Davis has played. But barring any setbacks, he should be back in the lineup against the Houston Texans on Sunday. Davis has to go through the NFL's concussion protocol one more day.

Davis was a little surprised he suffered a concussion because he delivered a similar type of hit on Cincinnati running Giovani Bernard, also on a pass in the flat, on Oct. 19. The difference between the two hits, though, is that Davis was able to make the hit with his shoulder.

“You can’t make perfect tackles all the time,” Davis said. “The difference was the angle taken. I tried to lead with my shoulder, but it didn’t happen. It’s all about the angle and I didn’t hit him with a good one and we saw what happened.”

The Colts have ruled offensive linemen Joe Reitz (ankle) and Hugh Thornton (knee) out for Sunday's game.

Texans vs. Colts preview

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11

When: 1 p.m., Sunday Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis TV: CBS

The Houston Texans have do-everything player J.J. Watt sacking quarterbacks, batting down passes and even catching touchdown passes on offense.

The Indianapolis Colts, though, have the psychological advantage over their AFC South counterparts.

Why else would Texans coach Bill O'Brien remind his team moments after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend that they've never won in Indianapolis?

The Texans will try to win in Indianapolis for the first time (0-12) on Sunday when the two teams meet. A Colts' victory gives them their second straight AFC South title. Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and Colts reporter Mike Wells break down the matchup:

Wells: How does Houston's offense change if Andre Johnson doesn't complete the concussion protocol and isn't cleared to play Sunday?

Ganguli: It lightens the load for an opposing defense, that's for sure. Johnson draws a lot of attention, which is helpful elsewhere on the field. The thing is second-year receiver DeAndre Hopkins has really taken a huge leap since his rookie season and is turning into a star. Hopkins was a big part of Ryan Fitzpatrick's record-setting day two weeks ago. Fitzpatrick threw nine targets to Hopkins, and Hopkins caught them all. Five of those were on deep balls, which is really an area in which Hopkins excels. Expect a lot of Hopkins, and I'd expect to see Keshawn Martin as the other outside receiver with Damaris Johnson in the slot as usual.

T.Y. Hilton crushed the Texans with a monster first quarter last time these teams met. How have things gone for him since? Do you anticipate a similar performance?

Wells: If you asked me earlier this season, I would have said Hilton has success against the Texans only when the game is played in Houston -- 19 catches for 422 yards and five touchdowns in three games there -- but Hilton has become one of the best young receivers in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns did a good job of not letting Hilton beat them deep in the first half last weekend. The Colts made the proper adjustments in the second half, and Hilton finished with 10 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Hilton likes it when teams think they can shut him down. Obviously, he'll be enemy No. 1 for the Texans this weekend, so you can expect offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to move Hilton around the field so that it's difficult for the Texans to use one particular defense to attempt to slow him down.

Did the Texans see enough of Ryan Mallett to think he's capable of being their quarterback of the future?

Ganguli: He looked great in his first start. It was one of the best first starts for a player in the past 10 years. Watching that, my main thought was if that's who he is, he is definitely an NFL starter. Mallett's second game was much worse, but was not representative of who he is as a quarterback because he played through it with a torn pectoral muscle, which in itself is incredible. I think the jury is still out. You can't make a sweeping judgment based on one start, but he did offer future hope. It would be wise for the Texans to keep him on the roster next season if they can so they can really find out.

"Struggling" is always a relative term, but Andrew Luck seems to have been doing so this week. Why is that?

Wells: As good as Luck has been this season -- and he's been very good -- he continues to make what he calls "bonehead" mistakes. By that I mean he's very sloppy with the ball at times. Part of that is his mental mind frame that he can always make a play happen instead of just throwing the ball away or taking a sack. Luck has turned the ball over 19 times, which is second in the league. Most of his mistakes tend to happen in the first quarter. As I pointed out in the "QB Snapshot" earlier this week, Luck has five turnovers and has been sacked six times in the first quarter of the past three games. The Colts actually haven't had a strong first quarter since scoring 24 points in the first 15 minutes of the game against the Texans back in early October.

Can't get through this without asking about Watt. I'm sure you've discussed this topic a number of times, but do you think he's done enough to prove he deserves to be the MVP?

Ganguli: The question here gets into what the meaning of MVP is to the voters. Is the player most valuable to his team? Is it the player most valuable to the league? Is it the best player in the league? The argument here is that Watt affects every play on defense even though he doesn't touch the ball on every play like a quarterback does. According to Pro Football Focus, Watt's numbers are ahead of anyone at his position than any other player in the league is in relation to their position. I think Watt has done enough, but if the Texans can't make the playoffs, I can't see him winning the award.

And on that note, how do you see the Colts handling Watt? He's had a lot of success in the division.

Wells: As you and I both recall, Watt had a significant impact in the first meeting when the Texans almost pulled off the comeback. He had 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 quarterback hits, 3 passes defended and a touchdown. Blocking Watt single-handedly is nearly impossible, so expect the Colts to use an extra blocker -- a tight end or running back -- to help out on him. The problem with using a tight end to help block is that it impacts the Colts' passing game. Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are both important pieces to their passing game. But the Colts are willing to make that sacrifice to give Luck an extra second or two to pass the ball.

INDIANAPOLIS – Wednesdays have routinely been a day off for Indianapolis Colts 36-year-old receiver Reggie Wayne.

But this was a different Wednesday off for Wayne. He was on the practice field with the rest of his teammates.

“We’re trying something just a little bit different with him,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “Going to work him [Wednesday] and [Thursday] and see how he feels. Then he might get a rest day later in the week.”

Wayne only had one catch for five yards against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. He has eight catches for 46 yards in the past three games.

“It was just lack of concentration,” Wayne said about his three drops against Cleveland on his weekly radio show on WNDE (1260 AM) in Indianapolis. “I just wasn’t focused the way I should have been when it’s time to catch the pass that’s thrown to me. It happens. Normally, I catch those balls with no problem, but it was just one of those days. It was one of those bad games. You see it with athletes all the time. If people want to pick one or two games out of 208, then so be it.”

Pagano revealed earlier this week that Wayne has playing with a torn triceps, which goes back to an elbow injury suffered against Cincinnati on Oct. 19.

“That’s part of the reason you see me wearing a brace,” Wayne said on his radio show. "I’m playing through it. We all got injuries. I appreciate Coach Pagano sticking up for me, or what not, but at the end of the day, I’m grown. This is the NFL. I just dropped the passes. That’s all it was.”