Here are five factors that must fall in the Colts’ favor to make sure they’re standing tall after the 1 p.m. game Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium (CBS):
1. Tremendous Luck
We all knew that this season would rise and fall with the play of quarterback Andrew Luck. He needs to deliver another quality performance this week. While he missed the Pittsburgh Steelers loss – perhaps for the better, gaining a bonus week without being hit – but his last three games have been outstanding. Luck has completed 60 of 92 passes (65.2 percent) for 761 yards and seven touchdowns as the Colts won all three games. He was particularly sharp against the New York Jets in a 41-10 blowout win Monday night and was only sacked once. Luck has played seven games against the Texans in his career, winning five and throwing 15 touchdown passes to four picks.
2. Action Jackson (the other one)
Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson will miss the next four games after his surprising suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance rules. That means the Colts will need even more quality play from Edwin Jackson, who made his hard-hitting presence known against the Jets. Edwin Jackson will be a necessary presence to slow Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler’s mid-range passing game.
3. Feed Moncrief
It’s no coincidence that Luck has soared with the return of Donte Moncrief to the lineup. T.Y. Hilton is the Colts’ No. 1 receiver, but Moncrief is No. 1A and he brings that big target that helps Luck when he needs plays to move the chains. Moncrief has caught touchdown passes in five consecutive games, second-longest streak in Colts history. Raymond Berry had a seven-game streak for the Baltimore Colts over two seasons in 1959-60. There have been eight five-game streaks in Colts’ history, including streaks by Marvin Harrison (2004), Dallas Clark (2007) and Reggie Wayne (2009).
4. Vontae gets the ‘Hop’
One of Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ best games this season was a nine-catch, 71-yard game in the 26-23 win over the Colts on Oct. 16, a game where the Colts blew what should have been an insurmountable lead. Look for Vontae Davis to spend some time trying to slow Hopkins down this time around. Davis is due for an interception. He has only one this season, and it came against the Texans.
5. Aggression, aggression, aggression
The Colts have gotten off to strong offensive starts in winning three of their last four games, and they have also shown a greater inclination to keep the pedal down. Indianapolis has scored at 14 points in the first quarter of each of those wins. Colts coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski need to find a way to jump on the Texans early, and keep up the pressure. The Texans’ strength is defense, so finding a way to play with a lead will make the day much more enjoyable for the Colts. Houston ranks 28th in the league in scoring.