By Stephen Dolan
Thursday Night Football features two teams with serious questions around the quarterback position. The Indianapolis Colts take on the Houston Texans in a match-up that will come down to quarterback play. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck missed Sunday’s game due to injury, while Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett was pulled in favor of Brian Hoyer during Sunday’s blowout by the Falcons.
Play: Andrew Luck (vs. HOU)
The key here is whether Luck plays. Luck has thrown for 753 yards through the Colts’ first three games of the season before sitting out on Sunday against the Jaguars. He has been uncharacteristically inaccurate through the first three weeks with a completion percentage of only 56 percent on the season. He faces a Texans pass defense that has allowed a completion percentage of just 57.1 percent and 229 yards per game. Play Luck if he’s healthy.
Pass: Ryan Mallett (vs. IND)
The Texans struggles at quarterback have been as bad as predicted in the beginning of the season. The starting quarterback has been replaced twice mid-game through the first four games. Mallett has been underwhelming completing 51.1 percent of his passes for 720 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He faces a Colts pass defense that is allowing an average of 268 yards per game, good for 22nd in the NFL. Pass on Mallett.
Play: Frank Gore (vs. HOU)
Gore is the better of two underwhelming options at running back on Thursday. He is averaging 4.2 yards per carry putting up 227 yards this season. However, the 32-year-old is coming off a tough day on the ground on Sunday, rushing 17 times for just 53 yards; he was able to salvage his value with five receptions for 34 yards, both season highs. The matchup should allow some room to run as the Texans rank 23rd in the NFL against the rush.
Pass: Alfred Blue (vs. IND)
Blue was Houston’s de facto No. 1 back with Arian Foster on the shelf. Foster returned on Sunday but received just eight rushing attempts for 10 yards. It appeared head coach Bill O’Brien wanted to take it slow with his top back and it is still uncertain that Foster will get the 20-25 touches he was getting last season; that makes Blue the guy, at least for this week. Blue has just 204 yards on the season and rushed for just 17 on Sunday. Pass on Blue.
Play: DeAndre Hopkins (vs. IND)
Hopkins is producing no matter who is slinging the ball for Houston. He is the NFL’s fifth-best receiver with 409 yards on 31 receptions through the first four games and is coming off a dominant performance on Sunday against Atlanta with nine receptions for 157 yards. Hopkins is going up against a Colts pass defense that is allowing an average of 276 receiving yards per game, good enough for 21st in the NFL.
Pass: T.Y. Hilton (vs. HOU)
Hilton has game-breaking potential at the wide receiver spot, but he has yet to have his breakout game of the season as he hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game nor has he scored a touchdown. His targets have varied between seven and 14 this season, so the consistent looks have been an issue. He gets a Texans defense that allows just 12.6 yards per reception and 238.8 yards per game, perhaps he won’t have a ton of room to operate.
Play: Coby Fleener (vs. HOU)
Fleener is third on the Colts in receiving with 139 yards on 14 receptions this season. He has a huge game on Sunday with Matt Hasselbeck under center, catching nine of his 12 targets for 83 yards and his first touchdown of the season. A teammate of Luck’s at Stanford, Fleener figures to play a big role in the Colts offense no matter who is playing quarterback. Start Fleener.
Pass: C.J. Fiedorowicz (vs. IND)
Fiedorowicz isn’t heavily featured in the Texans offense with just five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown on the year. He had his best game of the young season on Sunday with three receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown. It doesn’t seem likely that Fiedorowicz will become a large part of the Texans aerial attack in one week. Pass.
Play: Adam Vinatieri (vs. HOU)
Pass: Nick Novak (vs. IND))
Steve Dolan is an MBA student at Villanova University and a graduate of the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University. Steve co-founded Whiz Wit Sports, a Philadelphia-centric sports blog, in March 2011 growing the site to win PHL 17’s Best Local Blogger on the Philly Hot List in 2013.