With another disappointing start, the Indianapolis Colts are in danger of wasting another year of Andrew Luck's prime. But they can turn their 2016 season around and begin a push to the playoffs with a Week 6 win over division rival Houston.
The Colts stumbled out to a 1-3 start before rebounding for a much-needed win last week against Chicago. Through five games, Luck has been sacked 20 times, more than any other quarterback in the nation. While the fifth-year passer is statistically having one of his best seasons, his offensive line's inability to protect him has forced key drives to stall out at the worst possible moments.
The Indianapolis defense has shared the blame in the team's depressing record. Only one team in the nation -- New Orleans -- allows more points per game than the Colts, forcing Luck into a shootout week after week. The team is scoring more than 27 points per game in losses this fall, turning strong offensive performances into deflating defeats through five games this season.
Houston currently stands atop the AFC South, but hasn't looked the part of a playoff team. The Texans have only played two probable postseason participants this fall and lost those matchups by a combined 45 points. Brock Osweiler, the young quarterback Bill O'Brien was banking on to be his offensive catalyst, has struggled after signing a four-year, $72-million contract this offseason.
The former Bronco has failed to take advantage of his weapons in Houston. 2015 All Pro DeAndre Hopkins has been silenced with Osweiler behind center; he's on pace for just 906 receiving yards this season after exploding for 1,521 last year. The Texans have put rookie Will Fuller to good use, but as a whole the team's passing offense ranks 29th in a league of 32 in terms of yards per game. Osweiler's quarterback rating of 70.6 is third-to-last among NFL starters. The only two passers he's better than are Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Fitzpatrick, both of whom have been utterly terrible in stretches in 2016.
The Houston defense has been able to make up some ground to balance out that deficient offense. Even without J.J. Watt, the Texans rank fifth in the NFL when it comes to yards allowed per game -- but many of those stands have come against some of the league's least efficient teams. New England and Minnesota combined to drop 58 points on Houston; Chicago, and Jacksonville, and Tennessee managed only 36.
Expert picks from across the Internet favor Houston for a home win. ESPN's analysts are 100 percent behind the Texans, while CBS is much more balanced at a perfect 50/50 split. The writers at SB Nation swing back in favor of Houston; only three of our writers think Indianapolis can even its record with a victory Sunday.
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The AFC South matchup gets the national spotlight on Sunday Night Football, airing at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC and streaming at NBC Sports.