The more sacks Andrew Luck absorbs, the more wide open the AFC South becomes. The Texans can re-stake their claim to the division's top spot by fending off the Colts in a Sunday Night Football showdown.
Either the Colts or Texans have won the division each of the last seven seasons, and the winner of Sunday night's game will have a head start on taking the 2016 crown. Kickoff in Houston is set for 8:30 p.m. ET, airing on NBC with a live stream at NBC Sports.
Indianapolis is in danger of wasting Luck's prime behind a taped-together offensive line failing to provide the Pro Bowl passer with enough time in the pocket. He's been sacked a league-leading 20 times in 2016 as his Colts have sputtered to a 2-3 start. Their only wins this season have come against a pair of 1-4 teams: the San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears.
That's a far cry from the Indianapolis teams Luck broke into the league with. The former Stanford standout made the playoffs in each of his first three NFL seasons, advancing to the AFC Championship in 2015. However, injuries derailed his fourth season as a pro. If the Colts offensive line can't keep him upright, there's a solid chance they'll derail his fifth season as well.
Houston has a different issue at quarterback. The Texans lured Brock Osweiler from Denver with a four-year, $72 million deal. Unfortunately for them, he's been a downgrade from last year's spot starter, Brian Hoyer. Hoyer has cobbled together the league's third-best quarterback rating for the 1-4 Bears. Osweiler ranks 29th for the 3-2 Texans.
While Indianapolis may be wasting Luck's talent, the Texans' passing woes means they are failing to utilize one of the league's best receivers. DeAndre Hopkins was named an All-Pro in 2015 after catching 111 passes for more than 1,500 receiving yards. This fall, he's been limited to just 22 receptions through five games and has taken a backseat on his own team to rookie wideout Will Fuller.
As a result, the Texans rank 29th in the league in terms of passing offense. Unless Osweiler can turn his season around -- entirely possible, considering he's just 25 years old -- Houston will have to suffer through another season without a true franchise quarterback.
The winner of Sunday night's game will earn a key advantage in an entirely mediocre AFC South race. The Texans currently hold the division's top spot and have the only win over a team without a losing record after beating Kansas City in Week 2. The Colts can grab at least a share of that lead by improving to 3-3 and earning an early tiebreaker over Houston. Based on early returns, winning the South seems paramount; it's unlikely the division will send multiple teams to the postseason this winter.
For Houston, the first step is finding a connection between Osweiler and Hopkins to jump-start a stacked passing game on paper. For Indianapolis, it's finding a way to keep Luck upright long enough to lead his Colt offense into the end zone and back to the top of the AFC South.
How to Watch Colts vs. Texans on Sunday
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston
Announcers: Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels, Michele Tafoya
Online Streaming: Sunday Ticket, NBC Sports