Another regular season begins for the Indianapolis Colts with another different starting quarterback in Week 1. The Colts have rotated a carousel of quarterbacks in recent seasons, starting six different Week 1 starters over the past six years. This season, the Colts are giving a Matt Ryan an opportunity to resurrect his career after 13 excellent seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
Indianapolis is the favorite to win the AFC South after blowing an opportunity to make the playoffs in the final two games last season, hoping Ryan brings some stability to the quarterback position. The Colts arguably have the game’s best running back in Jonathan Taylor, who led the NFL in rushing yards (1,811), rushing touchdowns (18), rushing yards per game (106.5), yards from scrimmage (2,171), and scrimmage touchdowns (20) last season — all while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Ryan and Taylor are supposed to be the catalysts toward Indianapolis winning the division.
Houston is finally on the positive side of a rebuild after actually having first-round draft picks in order to make the roster better. Derek Stingley makes his debut with the franchise as he’s projected to be the No. 1 cornerback the organization has been seeking for years, while fourth-round pick Dameon Pierce emerged as the No. 1 running back after a stellar preseason.
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The Texans enter 2022 giving Davis Mills every opportunity to prove he’s the franchise quarterback. Mills ranked third in NFL history among all rookie quarterbacks in completion percentage (66.8%) and had three games with a passer rating of 125 or higher — tied for the second-most among rookie quarterbacks since the 1970 merger. He also led all NFL quarterbacks in red zone passer rating last season (116.8), showcasing he’s good enough to start in the league.
The Colts have high expectations in a tough AFC this season. Can they overcome last season’s demons and make the postseason? Will the Texans take steps in Lovie Smith’s first season at the helm? Here’s a preview of Sunday’s AFC South showdown:
How To Watch: Colts at Texans
- When: Sunday, Sept. 11 | 1 p.m. ET
- Where: NRG Stadium — Houston, Texas
- TV: CBS | Live stream: Paramount+ (try for free)
- Follow: CBS Sports App
- Odds: Colts -7; O/U 45.5 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Davis Mills vs. zone coverage
Mills was surprisingly good in man coverage in his rookie season, completing 61.6% of his passes (seventh in NFL) with seven touchdowns to just one interception. While the air yards per pass attempt was just 7.73 (26th in NFL), Mills finished with a 106.4 passer rating against man coverage (ninth in NFL).
Mills completed 69.6% of his passes against the zone (16th in NFL) with five touchdowns to nine interceptions and just 6.47 yards per attempt (30th in NFL). The 79.3 passer rating was 27th in the league, showcasing a major difference between man vs. zone coverage.
Zone coverage was a bit different, which is expected for a rookie quarterback. Gus Bradley — the Colts new defensive coordinator — had his defense with the Las Vegas Raiders play in zone coverage a league-high 79.9% of the time last season. Mills will have to get comfortable facing a zone defense.
Colts getting pressure
The Colts brought in Bradley as defensive coordinator to get more pressure on the quarterback, something they struggled with last season. Their pressure rate was just 29.1% in 2021, which was 23rd in the NFL — despite blitzing 29.5% of the time (seventh in NFL).
Indianapolis had just 193 pressures (20th in NFL) and 33 sacks (25th in NFL). The Colts added Yannick Ngakoue this offseason to bolster the pass rush and are banking on DeForest Buckner to return on his All-Pro form while relying on Kwity Paye to become a strong edge rusher on the opposite side of Ngakoue.
The Texans offensive line allowed 211 pressures (19th in NFL) and a 34.5% pressure rate (16th in NFL). The time to pressure allowed was 2.37 (31st in NFL). There’s an opportunity for Indianapolis to showcase the pass rush against an average offensive line from last season.
Latest Odds: Houston Texans +7
The Colts have a strong offense that will be fast-paced with Ryan leading the way. Ryan won’t showcase the inconsistencies Carson Wentz did over the course of last year, getting the Colts’ short passing game involved. Wouldn’t be surprising if Jonathan Taylor or Nyheim Hines have a big game against a Texans defense that was just 29th in total pressures last season (168).
Opposing quarterbacks completed 66.5% of passes vs. the Texans defense and averaged 7.95 yards per attempt with a 94.1 passer rating. Ryan is more than good enough to take care of Houston’s weakness, even with a revamped cornerback group of Derek Stingley and Steven Nelson.
Pick: Colts 31, Texans 20