Colts vs. Texans 2013 game preview: Case Keenum hoping to halt Houston's free fall against division leader

Keenum gets just his second career start NFL start Sunday. His task? Knock off Andrew Luck and the first-place Colts.

Case Keenum gets his second career start this Sunday as his Houston Texans take on an Indianapolis Colts team still riding high from an emotional win over Peyton Manning and the Colts.

The Colts are coming off a bye, with their last game being an exciting 39-33 Week 7 win over their former quarterbacking legend in what was a statement game for Andrew Luck. The win not only carried a heavy dose of personel significance for the team and fanbase, it moved them to 5-2 and gave them a commanding two-game lead in the AFC South race.

The Texans are coming off a bye themselves, still smarting from a frustratingly close Week 7 loss to the unbeaten Chiefs. After opening the season with two wins, injuries and poor quarterback play have cost them five straight and have them in a desperate free fall.

Meet the Texans

With the struggling Matt Schaub sidelined by a combination of an ankle injury and his propensity for turnovers, the Texans are likely to turn to Keenum at quarterback for a second consecutive week. The inexperienced Keenum, who played his college ball at the University of Houston, played well in his first start in Week 7 in a loss to the Chiefs, going 15-of-25 for 271 yards, one touchdown and no picks. The Texans have been decimated with injuries this season, and will likely be without both of their top running backs, Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

The Texans defense has been one of the league's best, ranking tops in total defense. At first glance, their 27.7 points per game looks bad, but that's because it includes all of the defensive scores teams have put up on their turnover-happy offense. After taking out the astounding seven special teams and defensive touchdowns the Texans have allowed, the defense's points per game number drops to 20.1.

Meet the Colts

The Colts' receiving corps took a huge hit with the loss of Reggie Wayne and his team-leading 38 receptions and 503 yards. Surprisingly, they made no moves to acquire a replacement before Tuesday's trade deadline, meaning the responsibility of being Andrew Luck's primary target falls on second-year man T.Y. Hilton. The injury could be bad news for Trent Richardson, who is already struggling with a 3.0-yard carry average and will likely face increased defenders in the box.

The Colts defense held the Broncos to nearly ten points under their season average two weeks ago in Indy and frustrated Manning with shifting coverage schemes and heavy pressure, recording four sacks and ten quarterback hits. Robert Mathis had two of those sacks, no doubt relieving some pent-up energy after watching Manning in a red jersey over years of practices. Even after giving up 33 points, the Colts scoring defense still ranks eighth in the league with a 26.7 average.

Local Takes: Texans

Battle Red Blog sees Sunday's game as a climactic juncture for the Texans' fading playoff hopes, and in turn for head coach Gary Kubiak's job security.

The phrase "hanging by a thread" fits all too well for this organization, and the shattered hopes and dreams of Texans fans lingers along for yet another season. It's always "next year" or "one more good draft and we'll have a sure thing," but I wonder if enough is enough at this point for owner Bob McNair to pull the plug and reload. Kubiak may survive due to the massive injury impact, but the jury is likely out until January. If ever there was a game to turn things around for a wild finish to the season, it is this Sunday when Indy visits Reliant. If the Texans lose this game to the Colts, the playoffs are all but out of reach.

Local Takes: Colts

Josh Wilson at Stampede Blue breaks down what losing Wayne really means to the Colts offense:

With Reggie Wayne out, here is the receiving production the Colts currently have on their active roster: 86 catches for 983 yards and 7 scores, with 148 targets and 46 first downs. That's roughly 64% of Luck's season production. Good, yeah, but considering the fact that it's mid-season and that's all they have left, it's concerning. In just one play on Sunday, the Colts lost close to 30% of their receiving production on the season in Reggie Wayne.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Battle Red Blog and Stampede Blue, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@battleredblog

@StampedBlue

@taniaganguli - Texans beat writer

@mchappell51 - Colts beat writer

Prediction

Four of SB Nation's five NFL experts picked the Colts to win with Stephen White predicting a Houston victory.

Odds

The line opened at even, surprisingly enough, but has since moved to favor the Colts by three points. Check out Oddsshark.com for the latest odds.

Next Week

The Colts host the struggling Rams next Sunday, while the Texans head out to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals.

More from SB Nation NFL

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The Post-Mortem: Atlanta is truly a town of history

Trade deadline: Nicks, Gordon and the big names to watch

NFL draft stock report: Separation at the top | Draft order

Takeaways: Contenders emerge at season's midpoint

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