** I'll try to get it in earlier next week**
Well, we're finally here, 17 weeks later. The final week of the year is upon us, and the Colts have a tough matchup ahead of them. They come back to Indianapolis to face the Texans. The Texans beat the Colts 29-17 in their last meeting, in a match where Arian Foster had 165 yards. Foster, who's coming off an irregular heartbeat scare, is back this week and is ready to go. Andrew Luck looks to have some momentum going into the playoffs, as they definitely didn't get any last week. Should be an interesting rematch.
What the Colts Need to do to Win
This is a big game for the Colts, and it will prepare them for the big road ahead: The Playoffs (capitals are there on purpose). Even a close game would be something positive. With that being said, the Colts have nothing to lose this game so they can afford to be aggressive and do a lot of things they just couldn't do in the Week 15 matchup.
Let's start with the offense, as usual. Last game, Andrew Luck didn't make any mistakes and he wasn't the reason the Colts lost. The only problem was that he didn't do enough to win. So, he didn't make mistakes, but he didn't do enough. This game, he needs to get more comfortable. He hasn't been comfortable recently, and it's been like that since the Titans game. It seems like the 3 touchdown, 2 interception Andrew Luck, is better than the 2 touchdown, 0 interception Andrew Luck. What I've learnt from Luck is that when he is more aggressive, the offense does better. By aggressive, that means taking shots down the field, and taking risks on third downs. Stuff like that actually makes this offense better, from what I've learnt. It seems that the conservativeness limits Luck, and that's not what the Colts want to do. So, with that being said, what do the Colts have to do? You guess it, play more aggressively. I'll make this very clear.
If there is one week where you can afford to make mistakes because of the aggressiveness, it's this week.
The Colts have clinched the #5 seed, so they ain't going up or down. Take some risks this week, and I actually encourage them to try some stuff that they would use next week this week. It's like being a stand up comic. Weird comparison, but keep reading. If I'm getting ready for my HBO one night special, I have to be prepared. What do all these comics do? They go to relatively small clubs and try out the jokes they would use for the HBO special. They see what works and what doesn't, and do the editing. That's what the Colts should do. I'm not saying prepare for next week, but try stuff that you would use against the Ravens, and see what works and what doesn't. Don't do something this week, and do the exact opposite next week. That may work, but it's not recommended. Now, I know what some of you guys are saying? If you use the stuff against the Ravens, the Ravens will watch it and just prepare for it. Let me tell you this. Teams, especially in the playoffs, prepare for everything. EVERYTHING! The Ravens will prepare for a run heavy, pass heavy, balanced, aggressive, and conservative attack. If you try a few plays, that wouldn't hurt you. Don't get me wrong, the Colts SHOULD NOT use the gameplan they are using this week, against the Ravens. All I'm saying is use a couple of specific plays that you would use against the Ravens, this week against the Texans, and see how it goes. It will make you better prepared for next week.
In the running game, they should try to give Vick the ball at least 18 times. He torched them the last game, and he should get the ball a lot this game too. The Colts found a hole in their defense, and they should keep trying to pound it, and find more holes. Their run defense isn't as good as we think, so the Colts need to showcase those weaknesses.
Now, back to the passing game. Protection is the most important thing going into this game. They must protect Andrew Luck. JJ Watt must be stopped. If they stop JJ Watt, they stop 75% of their pass rush. Last game, the majority of their pressures and sacks came from Watt. What worked is when they doubled teamed him with the center and right guard, with even the running back coming in to help. The main focus should be to stop JJ Watt. Then, from there, Luck could find his targets and get them. So, double team JJ Watt for most of the time, even in the running game. Anthony Castonzo did well against Barwin the last time, so he shouldn't need too much help. If either tackle is struggling, then a running back in the backfield or Dwayne Allen on the end could help them out. They need to have at least 6 guys blocking, maybe even 7 sometimes. Luck needs help. He can't keeep running around all game, or he'll having a mediocre performance. For him to shine, he needs time.
To recap on offense, have an aggressive pass happy (not heavy) attack. People forget Ballard got 105 yards against them in the last matchup.
On defense, stopping Arian Foster is again the main concern. The Colts must stop him. If you can stop Arian Foster, you can stop their offense. Look at last week. Arian Foster barely had an impact, and later left due an irregular heartbeat. With no Arian Foster, the Texans scored 6 points in the game. Foster had 15 rushing yards. Foster has had 4 games with less than 50 rushing yards. The Texans averaged 17 offensive points in those 4 games. Not horrendous, but that will not win you a lot of games, and I doubt the Texans would be in the playoffs (or at least clinched) had they averaged 17 offensive points a game. Foster is by far the most crucial piece on that offense and he must be stopped. Antoine Bethea must have a good game. He did not have a good game against him last time, and it cost them, especially in the 4th quarter. This game, he must make those tackles, and contain Foster. Containing Foster is very important. The last thing you want is for him to gain confidence. Bethea must make those important first down saving tackles. But, Bethea shouldn't have to be making those tackles, those tackles should be made at the line of scrimmage.
That's the linebackers job. They need to get contact on Foster right away. They need to play gap control and follow Foster. Jerrell Freeman needs to have a big game tackling. He needs to make at least 10 tackles, and should be expected to make around 13 this game. He needs to make tackles on Foster, so that he doesn't have to rely on Bethea. Bethea was forced to make a lot of tackles against Foster last time, and he missed a few of them, and those runs ended up being 25+ yards. If the linebackers do their job at the line against Foster, you'll see Foster won't have a big game. Then in the passing game, one should drop back in coverage and the other (prefferably Freeman) should hang around in the box or blitz the QB. They've been doing that a lot this year, and it seems to work pretty well. Keep doing that.
As for the passing game, the main worry there has to be getting pressure on Schaub and stop Johnson. It's a bit like the Texans preparing for the Colts. They need to get pressure on Luck and stop Wayne. Well the Colts need to get pressure on Schaub and stop Johnson, or it will be more of the same. Schaub and Johnson hooked up for 156 yards and a touchdown last game, with 110 of those yards coming against Vontae Davis. Although he had a great week last week, Davis isn't ready to handle big Andre by himself. Try to disguise some double teams, or have safety help over the top. Lefeged actually isn't bad in coverage, and plays the deep ball well. His tackling isn't great, but like I said, he plays contain well. He should help Vontae (or the guy covering Andre, although that should be Vontae for most of the game) with help over the top, so it at least eliminates the deep passes. Last game, they got to the Colts early going deep and executing. The Colts need to play a safety deep for 90% of the game. They can't allow the big plays, because that's what kills them. Let Schaub make reads and find the short passes, don't allow anything big.
Then, when it comes to pressure, the Colts need to start blitzing. I love it when they got Jerrell Freeman in some blitzes. They disguised it well and it worked a lot. That's what they got to do. They got to get Freeman involved in a lot of these blitzes. The Colts need to get 6 guys getting the QB. They should even get Bethea on those blitzes too, as he's proven that he could be valuable on those blitzes, as he got a sack against the Texans two weeks ago. Do everything you have to do to get pressure on Schaub. Once they get pressure, they'll be forced to start running the ball more, or throwing it shorter. That works in the Colts favor, IF they stack the box and try and play the run. The Colts need to take away all the gaps and play contain with the rush linebackers. To help try and take away all the gaps, Bethea should try and be brought in the box. He's arguably the Colts' best defensive player, and is a fantastic tackler. He's very valuable in the box, and I like it when he plays in there. If the players take their gaps, and make their tackles, they'll stop Foster. The problem is, every now and then the guy misses a tackle and Foster gets a big run. That happened a few times last time, and he hit a couple of huge runs. It happened last week too. The Colts need to make their tackles.
To recap on defense, they need to stack the box, play the running game, blitz a lot, and focus on Andre Johnson.
What the Texans Need to do to Win
On offense, the Texans need to have the same balanced/slightly run heavy attack that they had in the first game. They gave the ball to Foster 27 times and it worked perfectly as he had over 165 yards and several big first down runs that burried the Colts. The Texans need to give the ball back to Foster and let him do his magic again. They need to have more of a run happy attack. Let Matt Schaub play his role where he doesn't do much good or much bad. Don't ask for him to do much. You have to let Foster control this offense. This offense has lived and died under Foster, and that's how it should be today. If Foster does well, this offense will do well. If Foster does badly, or is not playing (like last week), they will fail. That's a fact. Foster has a good history against the Colts, and you have to take what I just said into account, so let this guy dictate the game.
As for the passing game, protection needs to be the most important thing. Schaub does well when he's protected. He's a good reader, so he'll find his targets and throw nice passes. He starts making mistakes when the pressure is on. So, what the Texans should do is trying a get an extra blocker to help, to really secure that he's safe. Duane Brown can handle Freeney, and the interior of the line should dominate the Colts D-line especially since they don't have Cory Redding. The only problem is Robert Mathis. In that case, get a chip blocker, or a running back to help and block on that side. If there's one guy, who may cause havoc, it's him, so shutting him down is a must. He had a good game against Derek Newton, so he needs some help. Other than that, Schaub should try and look for Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels. Those are their two best options in the passing game, and both can make big plays.
To recap on offense, the Texans need to give Foster the ball, and play it safe in the passing game. That should put up a sufficient amount of points.
On defense, they need to keep the gameplan that they did against the Colts. Yes, I understand that you never do the same gameplan twice against the same team, but the core of that gameplan must stay. What they did was get pressure on Luck and completely eliminate Reggie Wayne. That's what MUST STAY! That's the formula to really slowing down this Colts offense, and it worked perfect last game. They shut down Reggie Wayne (3 catches for 14 yards), and JJ Watt, along with Barwin and Smith, were able to get a lot of pressure on Luck. So, maybe change up the looks, disguise the blitzes. Of course you're going to have to change the half the things, but you have to keep the important stuff in place. If you let Reggie Wayne take over, it's over, the Colts will win. Also, if Andrew Luck gets time in the pocket, he will pick apart this defense, just like Brady, Stafford, and hell, even Ponder. As for the things they have to change. They need to play contain when it comes to the safeties. Those guys need to play deep. The Colts have 63 passes that have gone 20 yards or further, so that shows that they like to go deep. A lot of their points have come off long touchdowns or big plays.
Take that away and you'll force the Colts to do something they don't do often: the short passing game, where they'll be forced to do short passes. That's better for the Texans. You don't want them to be lauching deep bombs all day. The Colts got 7 points off deep plays the last time. That's 7 too many. Eliminate the deep ball by playing the safeties deep, disguise the bltizes, get pressure on Luck, and finally try to eliminate Reggie Wayne.
The most intriguing matchup has to be Reggie Wayne vs the Texans' secondary. There isn't necessarily a guy that will cover Reggie because Reggie will be moving around a lot. Reggie Wayne was shut down last time against the Texans, and that was because of double teams and safety help. Last game, the Colts offense was unable to get going and that was because of the inability to get Reggie involved. If Reggie is involved, the Colts offense will most likely have a good game. If they can't, it will be more of the same.
There will be a defensive/special team touchdown.
Indianapolis Colts 23 vs Houston Texans 19 (Exactly right last week, and nearly perfect the week before )