Colts visit Texans in key AFC South contest
The odds had become essentially nil that Houston could play its way into the playoff picture, yet the Texans’ recent efforts have inched probabilities closer to improbable and away from impossible.
But with wide receiver Will Fuller V and cornerback Bradley Roby earning season-ending suspensions based on violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Texans (4-7) had their slim hopes effectively dashed.
And now, for the second time this season, Houston must recover from a staggering blow while preparing to host an AFC South rival, the Indianapolis Colts (7-4) on Sunday.
“Any time you have someone on your team make a misstep, that’s disappointing, then particularly when they are key contributors,” Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said. “So, then what we’ll have to do now is everybody as a group will have to tighten the belt straps and put our best foot forward and get ready for the game on Sunday.
“When you lose production like that, it hurts. Nothing we can do about it now, but it hurts not having them. Like I told them (Wednesday) morning, we have enough in the room that we can win games.”
Fuller, having the most productive season of his five-year career with 53 receptions, 879 yards and eight touchdowns, will be especially difficult to replace, particularly on the heels of the Texans losing receiver Randall Cobb to injury just prior to releasing receiver Kenny Stills.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has played six consecutive games without an interception, completing 70 percent of his attempts for 1,750 yards and 15 touchdowns during that stretch.
Fuller was the primary target for Watson over those six games with 31 catches (on 45 targets), 547 yards and five touchdowns. Roby, the Texans’ top defensive back, will be missed, but losing Fuller will cripple an offense that was building momentum following a ragged start.
“We don’t have no choice but to move on,” Watson said. “All the stuff we’ve dealt with through this organization over the years, you’ve just got to keep pushing and keep moving forward.”
The Colts suffered a blow of a different kind last Sunday, absorbing a 45-26 beating at the hands of the Tennessee Titans that knocked them from the division perch. Indianapolis’ fifth-ranked defense was hammered, especially on the ground, allowing 449 yards in defeat.
If the Colts are to rebound in Houston and maintain their standing in the wild-card picture, they will have to do so with a depleted roster. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo suffered an MCL sprain against the Titans and will not play on Sunday, and the team is considering options beyond Le’Raven Clark, who filled in for Castonzo to mixed results.
Center Ryan Kelly, who did not play last Sunday due to a neck injury, should return against the Texans, and the Colts also reinstated running back Jonathan Taylor from the reserve/COVID-19 list. But questions remain with defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (COVID list) and safety Khari Willis (back/quad), potential voids on a defense seeking to confirm a reputation as one of the league’s best units.
“Our defense has been top notch the whole year,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “We’ve had a few bad stretches in games, but for the most part, our defense has been top notch.
“Last week, we came out kind of flat and we got it handed to us. We got beat in all three phases, and so we just anticipate that we have to have a good week of practice and have good energy and better execution.”
–Field Level Media