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NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - INSIDE SLANT
Vacation, in terms of a one-week bye, is now over.
It is back to the work for the Indianapolis Colts, who will go into Sunday night's game against defending AFC South champion Houston with a 5-2 record and a two-game lead in the division.
The Texans, meanwhile, have struggled of late and will bring a 2-5 mark into the game.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck doesn't care to talk about Houston's issues so far this season. All he knows is that the Texans have ruled the division the last two seasons and still possess an outstanding defense.
"I don't think there will be any problem of flipping the switch (coming off a bye) and getting back going. I don't think (the) guys really turned it off completely (last week) either," Luck said.
"It's great to relax, great to get your mind off of things. But we're excited for this week and (for) a great test in Houston."
The Colts-Texans rivalry has developed into a pretty fierce matchup in recent years. Indianapolis dominated the division from 2002 to 2010, but Houston has been the top dog the previous two seasons.
That's what Luck and the rest of the Colts locker room sees when thinking about the Texans.
"I'm sure they wish their record was better than it is. But that's all thrown out the window," Luck said.
"These are the division champs. These are the reigning champs and we want to be where they were. So we know (that the division title) goes through them."
Also important for the Colts is how they handle the season-ending injury to veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee two weeks ago in the win over Denver.
"I don't think (the offense) changed (with the loss of Wayne). I think we've got guys that will step up and fill that hole," Luck said.
"It's too big of a hole for one guy to step up and fill. It will take a collective effort. But I don't think things will change too much."
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - NOTES, QUOTES
The Colts are heavily favored leading up to Sunday night's primetime game at Houston, but outside linebacker Robert Mathis said that can't affect Indianapolis' mindset.
"No. Play football. That's your job. Do your job," he said.
Said left tackle Anthony Castanzo: "You have to beat the guys in your division to get to the playoffs. This one's (Sunday night at Houston) is important because the division's important, (it's) the next one up."
--Indianapolis has the sixth toughest road strength of schedule over the final eight games of the season (.605). St. Louis, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Minnesota, and Denver top the list.
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Rookie OLB Bjorn Werner (foot) returned to practice Monday and is listed as a day-to-day. Werner was hurt against Jacksonville on Sept. 29. His status for this week's game at Houston won't be determined until Friday at the earliest.
--WR Reggie Wayne (knee) had surgery last Friday in Miami and has begun the rehab process. Wayne suffered a torn ACL and a torn meniscus in his right knee against Denver two weeks ago.
--CB Josh Gordy (groin) is listed as doubtful for the Houston game. Gordy was hurt against the Broncos two weeks ago.
--S Delano Howell (neck) is doubtful for the Texans game. Howell was injured against the Broncos two weeks ago.
--CB Greg Toler (groin) is listed as day-to-day for this week's game at Houston. Toler suffered the injured against the Broncos two weeks ago.
--WR Darius Heyward-Bey is expected to get the first opportunity to replace injured veteran WR Reggie Wayne in the Colts' passing offense. Heyward-Bey has been used primarily in the team's receiver rotation, along with T.Y. Hilton. Now, with Wayne sidelined for the remainder of the year, Heyward-Bey will be counted on to raise the level of his game.
--WR LaVon Brazill, who missed the first four games of the season as he was serving a suspension for violation of the league's substance-abuse policies, should see his playing time increase over the remainder of the season. Brazil was impressive at times as a rookie last year but consistency issues led to limited work.
--WR Griff Whalen, a former college teammate of Colts QB Andrew Luck at Stanford, has been activated off the Indianapolis practice squad and will become another potential new target in the team's offense. Whalen has been with the Colts since the spring of 2012.
--FB Stanley Havili has given the Colts' offense a different look. Havili was signed to be a blocking back to help improve the team's run game. But has also been active as a pass receiver, catching seven passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.
--C Thomas Austin was signed to the Colts' practice squad. Austin was on Indianapolis' practice roster earlier this season but has yet to play in a regular-season game with the team. He has also spent time on the Carolina and Houston rosters.
REPORT CARD AFTER EIGHT WEEKS:
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- The Colts have made a relatively smooth transition from former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' big-play system to current coordinator Pep Hamilton's so-called "No Coast Offense." QB Andrew Luck has completed 136 of 224 passes for 1,574 yards, 10 touchdowns and, most important, only three interceptions. Luck has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes with a 91.3 passer rating. Top WR Reggie Wayne hauled in 38 passes for 503 yards and two TDs. Wayne, though, is sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. WRs T.Y. Hilton (27-412, 2 TDs) and Darius Heyward-Bey (18-190-1 TD) and TE Coby Fleener (22-235, 3 TDs) are expected to help pick up the slack. TE Dwayne Allen has also missed most of the season with a foot injury.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B - Very much a work in progress. The Colts have lost starting RBs Vick Ballard (knee) and Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) for the season. Trent Richardson was added in a trade with Houston and has rushed for 228 yards this season. He is averaging 3.0 yards per carry and has rushed for two touchdowns. Donald Brown has added 195 yards in 33 carries and one TD in spot duty. QB Andrew Luck has run for 183 yards in 28 carries and has scored three TDs. Injuries along the offensive line - OG Donald Thomas is lost for the year with a quad injury and C Samson Satele has battled knee issues - have also hindered things. Still, as a team, the Colts are averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus - The Colts have picked off eight passes this year, led by CB Darius Butler's two, and have sacked opposing quarterbacks 21 times, paced by OLB Robert Mathis' league-leading 11.5 sacks. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 1,698 yards and just eight TDs through the first seven games of the season. And opposing quarterbacks have a 78.3 passer rating against the Indianapolis defense. That's after meetings with signal callers such as Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus - Indianapolis has done a pretty good job against the run, allowing 4.5 yards and 122.3 yards per game so far this season. The Colts have been hit-and-miss when facing mobile quarterbacks, struggling to slow down Oakland's Terrelle Pryor and Wilson while doing a very good job on Kapernick. Indianapolis has allowed five rushing touchdowns through the first seven games.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus - PK Adam Vinatieri continues to amaze, connecting on 15 of 17 field-goal attempts (including three from 50-plus yards), and leads the team in scoring with 63 points. P Pat McAfee has averaged 41.0 net yards and 46.3 overall yards on 30 punts, with 13 kicks downed inside opponent's 20-yard line. McAfee also has done a good job on kickoffs. WR T.Y. Hilton is averaging 7.9 on 14 punt returns. WR David Reed is averaging 25.1 yards on 11 kickoff returns.
COACHING: B-plus - Give head coach Chuck Pagano plenty of kudos for directing the Colts through a tough schedule to begin the season and securing wins over three potential Super Bowl-caliber teams - San Francisco, Seattle and Denver. Even most impressive is how Pagano and his coaches have worked through a long list of injuries to key players.