Two AFC South rivals square off on Thursday Night Football in Week 5. Can the Andrew Luck-less Colts hold off the Texans, or will Bill O'Brien's one-win team grab the win at home? Don Banks makes his pick.
• Last week: 10–5; Season: 39–24 (.619).
• Best pick in Week 4: New Orleans 28, Dallas 24 (actual score: Saints 26–20).
• Worst pick in Week 4: Buffalo 30, N.Y. Giants 21 (actual score: Giants 24–10).
As badly as the first month of this season has gone for Bill O’Brien’s Texans, the reality is Houston could exit its Week 5 division opener tied for first place in the middling AFC South with a win over the banged up Colts. And that would put a soothing coat of gloss on what has been pretty unsightly for a club that considers itself a serious playoff contender. But with games at Jacksonville, at Miami and home against Tennessee coming up next, the Texans have the potential to enter their Week 9 bye on a decent little roll and perhaps in firm control of the division if they can put this one in the win column.
That’s a big if, of course, given that Indianapolis owns a 22–4 advantage in the all-time series, winning five in a row and five out of six in the Colts’ Andrew Luck era. The Texans haven’t beaten Luck in Houston since his rookie season of 2012, with Indy earning five and three-point wins on its past two trips to Luck’s hometown.
But Luck and his injured throwing shoulder reportedly will be sitting out for a second consecutive game, leaving the task of keeping 2–2 Indianapolis in first place to 40-year-old veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck, who performed admirably in the Colts’ overtime squeaker at home Sunday against Jacksonville. Can the old man, who's been sick with a virus this week, take his act on the road and continue to prosper? We shall see.
The Texans have their own quarterback questions to deal with, but for now O’Brien said he’s sticking with Ryan Mallett as his starter, even though he got nothing accomplished last week at Atlanta, getting yanked from the game with the Falcons up 42–0, before backup Brian Hoyer went it and amassed some pretty garbage-time stats in the 48–21 Houston loss. If the Texans start slowly once again, look for O’Brien to have a far quicker hook for Mallett this time, and for Hoyer to re-emerge as the starter at Jacksonville in Week 6.
All the quarterback issues have kept the spotlight pretty much off of the Houston homecoming of Colts receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson spent the first 12 years of his NFL career with the Texans and was the face of the franchise for most of that tenure. He certainly hasn’t made the Colts look sage thus far for signing him away from their division rivals this offseason, but maybe he has been saving it all for this Week 5 primetime showdown, with a plan to exact his revenge amid maximum exposure.