Week 13 is here and the Houston Texans are now on the home stretch of divisional games within the AFC South, this time hosting the Indianapolis Colts.
The last time these sides met was back in Week 6 when the Colts dominated, beating the Texans 31-3. And it leads to the question: Forget beating Indy - grand as that would be. Can Houston even compete with Indy?
And what players will be available to help?
Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham is a healthy scratch for disciplinary reasons today against the Colts. Cunningham was previously disciplined by coach David Culley for recurring lateness issues and benched for first quarter of game against the Cleveland Browns.
Texans' inactives besides Cunningham are David Johnson (illness, thigh), Justin McCray (concussion), Jordan Akins (healthy scratch), Terrence Brooks (hamstring), Jeff Driskel and Deshaun Watson (non-injury reasons-personal matter)
RECORDS: Texans (2-9), Colts (6-6)
ODDS: Surprise, surprise, the Texans are 10-point underdogs, with the over/under at 44.5 (Per SI Sportsbook). That makes the Colts the smart bet, obviously.
STAT: The Texans have an unenviable 9-30 record against the Colts, and have won just twice in their last 10 matchups dating back to 2016.
One player who has been particularly prominent in many of these games is Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton. The 32-year-old has 1,798 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 19 appearances against the Texans - more than against any other team.
FUN FACT: In a season mired by negative headlines, there have been some positives to lift the spirits.
Defensively, the Texans have 20 takeaways so far, including 11 in their last three games.
Defensive end Jonathan Greenard is the second-highest rated second-year defender in the league according to PFF, marginally behind Antoine Winfield Jr. of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rookie quarterback Davis Mills, the backup to Tyrod Taylor, may not have set the world on fire with his play, but he still ranks fourth among first-year QBs in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns, despite only having played in six and a half games.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Who exactly lines up.
Houston's injury report listed six players as questionable and five as out on Friday. This lengthy list comes as a non-COVID-19 related illness swept through the team.
The Texans have since made moves, as linebacker Christian Kirksey and center Justin Britt have both been activated off of Injured Reserve, with defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker and wide receiver Danny Amendola moving in the opposite direction. Safety Jonathan Owens has been promoted to the active roster from the practice squad while running back Jaylen Samuels and defensive end Chris Smith have been elevated to the active roster.
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Cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc has also been released, and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, a former first-round pick by the Colts, has been signed to the practice squad.
Some of the above moves seem to have been made with the injury report in mind. Owens could see snaps in place of the injured Terrence Brooks. Samuels may take the place of the questionable David Johnson. And Smith looks to be a like-for-like swap for Walker.
Expect Kirksey and Britt to return to their starting roles.
HOUSTON'S KEY TO VICTORY: Stopping the run.
It would be easy to identify Hilton as Houston's key to victory, but at this point, running back Jonathan Taylor is by far their biggest threat.
Taylor is having a season that should land him on the list of MVP candidates.
The second-year back has 1,205 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns to his name already. This includes the 145 yards and two touchdowns he put up against Houston earlier this year.
The Texans currently rank second to last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed with 1,492 and rushing touchdowns with 17, and one of their stronger run defenders, Roy Lopez, is questionable with an illness.
GAME TIME: 12:00 p.m. CT, Sunday, Dec. 5
LOCATION: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
TV/RADIO: CBS, KHOU 11, Sports Radio 610, 100.3 The Bull, Mega 101 FM
THE FINAL WORD: The Texans were expected to be flattened by the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago - and yet Houston won.
Last week the Texans were expected to get their first back-to-back win of the season against the lowly New York Jets - and yet Houston lost.
This season has been unpredictable at the best of times across the league, and the Texans have been no exception.
The Colts started the season 0-3, but have picked up the pace as the year went on. Prior to last week's loss to the Bucs, Indianapolis had won three straight.
On paper, this is Indianapolis' game to lose. For the Texans, maybe challenging that begins with simply being able to compete.