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We feel you, Bill O'Brien.
We feel you, Bill O'Brien.
Photo by Eric Sauseda

NFL Week 4: Texans-Colts — Four Things To Watch For

While you may have been trying to block it out of your mind for the last five years (and if you've been successful, by all means tell me how), the 2013 season happened for the Houston Texans. I was there. Five years ago, it happened, and they went 2-14. The thing about that team is that they weren't just bad, they didn't just find new ways to lose games every week, but there was some new form of drama with that team every week.

Matt Schaub throwing pick sixes, QB yo-yoing between Schaub and Case Keenum, Andre Johnson storming off the field, Ed Reed being Ed Reed, injuries, and Gary Kubiak having some sort of stroke at halftime of a game. These things all happened, in addition to 14 losses in a row, and the coach getting fired after 13 games.

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Thus far in 2018, there are some 2013-esque cracks showing in the Texans' season. Yeah, they're 0-3, but the way they're losing games looks a lot like the disaster of five years ago. Now, the drama seems to be ramping up, too, with outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney saying today that (a) he feels the way he was handled in training camp is directly affecting his performance so far this season...

Are you excited about the way you’re starting to play?
“I’m coming along. I haven’t done a lot since the beginning of the season, no training camp, all of that, but like I said, this game should be a lot better for me. I’m expecting a lot better game out of myself this week. Just looking forward to the game.”

How much do you think missing training camp has affected the first few weeks?
“A lot, a lot. When you don’t play football, you just can’t go out there just turn it on. It’s hard. You have to work your handwork and technique. You have to actually do it so it’s kind of hard, but once you get going, you get the feel back in the game you’ll be ready to go.”

....and (b) he was NOT injured coming into the season....

With health being the No. 1 concern, was there anything you could have or should have done to get ready for the season?
“Me? There wasn’t anything wrong with me. Wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was ready to go when I came back here. That’s how I was told to be ready to go the minute you walk in the door, and I was. So, like I said, whatever happened back then, we’re here now and just getting ready to prepare for the Colts and looking for a win this week.”

Why didn’t you participate in training camp?
“I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Did you ever ask the coaches why you weren’t participating?
“No, that was not my problem. I play here, just try to get better and get ready for the season and stay on the field. Get ready to go this week.”

The weird thing is that he was (a) pretty much treated like an injured player during training camp, and (b) Romeo Crennel basically CALLED him an injured player in HIS press session yesterday...

“Yeah, we’ve talked about guys returning from injury that a lot of times, they’ve got to get into the feel of it, they’ve got to feel comfortable with themselves. I think we saw it with J.J. (Watt) and I think the same thing is occurring with Clowney.”

So add it all up, and that means that, at the very least, Clowney is implying he was mishandled during the preseason, and if we are to believe Clowney, at lowest level of conspiracy theory, this is the Texans trying to manipulate his street value in a contract year by handling him like he was injured. At the end of the day, it's one of those storylines that gets magnified when your team is winless.

So, the Texans need a win this Sunday in Indy. What are some things to watch for? Let's take a look....

4. Start fast
You want to see a disturbing stat? Of course you do! How about this one....

It's hard to win games when you're paddling upstream the entire season. At this point in the season, I don't have confidence that O'Brien is going to scheme this team into any sort of early success. This is on the players to come out with a sense of urgency, take a lead, and allow the offense and the defense to not have to play so tight the whole first half.

3. Luck in a ten yard box
Andrew Luck is not vintage Andrew Luck right now, not even close. If you watched the Colts play the Eagles last weekend, you saw a noodle armed QB that looks a lot like Peyton Manning did in his final season, getting by on guile, guts, and brains. Luck is 31st in the NFL with 5.84 yards per attempt, and any ball he throws longer than ten yards downfield has a noticeable amount of air underneath it. The Texans cannot let Luck chip away underneath like they let Eli Manning do last week. The good news is that the Colts don't have intermediate threats anywhere in the neighborhood of Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard, nor a running back remotely close to Saquon Barkley.

2. Offensive line
Rewatching Texans games is a downright depressing process right now, not only because they're losing games, but when you watch this offense, you feel like (a) there is no solution to get the offensive line to even play mediocre (mediocre would be a massive upgrade right about now) and (b) there's a chance you might see Deshaun Watson die on the field this season. As impossible as it may seem, the offensive line is worse than it was in 2017. Somehow, some way, they have to find a way to give Watson time to throw — when he has time, he is deadly — and not make the likes of Jabaal Sheard look like an All Pro. (NOTE: Sheard had 5.5 sacks last season. THREE of them came against the Texans.)

1. Encore, Watt
J.J. Watt looked like he was back to his old self the first two games, but the stats on the box score weren't there to back it up. Last Sunday, they were. Watt made the Giants pay for starting a first-timer at right tackle (some dude named "Wheeler"), with eight tackles, three sacks, and three tackles for loss. For now, it looks like the it's 2014 all over again, where the weight of the world defensively is on Watt's shoulders. Sunday, he will be, once again, going against an offensive line versus whom he should feast....

SPREAD: Texans +1.5
PREDICTION: Colts 20, Texans 17
RECORD: 1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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