Indianapolis Colts (2-6) at Houston Texans (3-4)
These two teams have lost more to injury this season than perhaps any team in the league. The obvious big injury for the Colts was the loss of quarterback Andrew Luck, who has officially been shut down for the season due to complications from off-season shoulder surgery. Luck’s injury exposed what has long been one of the worst 53 man rosters in the NFL and the hits have kept coming from there, as the Colts have also lost safety Malik Hooker and left guard Jack Mewhort, two of their better starters, for the season, while several others have missed games, including talented outside linebacker John Simon and talented safety Clayton Geathers, who remain out for the Colts.
On top of that, center Ryan Kelly and cornerback Vontae Davis, who missed the start of the season with injury, have not looked anywhere near 100% since returning. This is arguably the worst team in the league right now, even though they have two wins. Those two wins have come at home against the winless 49ers and winless Browns by a combined 6 points and it’s arguable they would have lost both games had they not been in Indianapolis. Both of those wins also came before the injuries to Mewhort, Hooker, and Simon, three of their few talented starters.
That being said, the Texans’ roster right now also looks like one of the worst in the league. The Texans opened the season with Tom Savage under center, but he played so bad that he was benched after one half against the Jaguars for rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson took a couple games to get his feet under him, but then played a 5-game stretch that was as good as any quarterback in the NFL, finally giving the Texans the franchise quarterback they’d trying to find for years.
Unfortunately, right as that happened, they lost arguably their two best defensive players, defensive end JJ Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, in a week 5 loss to the Chiefs. Without them, they were still able to defeat the Browns with ease and then they lost a nailbiter in Seattle against the Seahawks when Deshaun Watson had the game of his life against one of the better defenses in the league. Just when it looked like Watson could carry this team even without a good defense, Watson tore his ACL in practice this week so they are now back to Tom Savage, a massive blow to this team.
When the news broke about Watson’s injury, this line shifted from 14 to 7. I was considering taking the Colts at +14 before the injury, but I like them a lot more than +7 against Savage as I don’t think this line shifted enough to compensate for how valuable Watson had been to this offense. Not only was he making big plays in the passing game and on the ground, but his mobility minimized the effect of what is a pretty terrible offensive line upfront for the Texans. In fact, Watson’s mobility was likely a big part of the reason why they felt comfortable trading left tackle Duane Brown to the Seahawks at the deadline this week, just days before Watson’s injury.
With Savage taking over, the Texans go from one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the NFL to one of the least mobile, which will maximize the effect of this terrible offensive line, even against a weak defense. Savage took 7 sacks in the first half against Jacksonville before being benched. The Colts are hardly the Jaguars, but Savage could still be under pressure all day as the Colts’ front 7 actually isn’t that bad, even without John Simon. Outside of center Nick Martin, the Texans have below average starters across the offensive line, including at left tackle where Chris Clark is arguably the league’s worst blindside protector.
Savage also has Will Fuller healthy, which he didn’t have in the opener, but he won’t be supported by nearly the same defense either, with not just JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus hurt, but also defensive end Christian Covington, who was having a mini-breakout season in Watt’s absence before going down for the season with a torn bicep last week. In 3 games without Watt and Mercilus, they’ve been torched twice by the Chiefs and Seahawks, with their only strong performance coming against the Kevin Hogan led Browns. And now you add the loss to Covington to the mix. We’re getting enough line value with the Colts for them to be my Pick of the Week at +7. They wouldn’t be my Pick of the Week in a normal week, but there are only 12 games this weekend and I don’t love a lot of the lines.
Houston Texans 20 Indianapolis Colts 16
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +7
Confidence: Pick of the Week