INDIANAPOLIS – It is almost time for the last bye week in the NFL.
Before the Colts (6-6) get there next week, they will head to Houston in Week 13 to take on the lowly Texans (2-9).
Here are some takeaways from the Colts returning to on-field work Wednesday:
- DeForest Buckner (knee) plans to play this Sunday. Despite hyperextending his knee this past Sunday, Buckner still played 78 percent of the defensive snaps against the Bucs. Buckner said he was initially a bit startled thinking more worst-case with his knee injury. But once he regained feeling in his knee and doctors observed stability in it, the staff taped up his knee at halftime and he returned to action. Buckner’s durability is remarkable. He has missed 2 games in 6 NFL seasons (1 due to COVID last season). And he didn’t miss a game in college.
- The Colts could be getting one of their more underrated defenders back this weekend. Khari Willis has been designated to return from injured reserve, with him returning to practice on Wednesday for the first time in a month. Willis last played on Halloween, missing all 4 games in November. If Willis does return, the Colts have previously had Andrew Sendejo next to him at safety.
- With December here, the watch on a potential return for Parris Campbell should pick up. Campbell first went on injured reserve in mid-October due to a foot injury he suffered against the Texans. Frank Reich was asked about him on Wednesday and said the third-year wideout is making good progress but there’s no further update on his return. The original timetable for Campbell was a 2-to-3 month recovery, with the Colts thinking he could be on the short end of that. If that indeed happens, Campbell could return for the Christmas meeting with Arizona.
- There will be no change at punt returner, despite Nyheim Hines muffing a couple this season. Frank Reich thinks that’s been a ‘fluke’ and he has the ‘utmost confidence’ in Hines. Entering this season, Hines had 2 fumbles in 396 touches over three seasons. In 2021, he has 2 fumbles in 77 touches. As far as drops, Hines has 2 in 43 targets this year (the 4.7 percent drop rate is the second highest of his four NFL seasons). These numbers aren’t egregious, but it’s something to monitor to see if it happens again. FWIW, some names the Colts rotated in at punt returner in training camp, includes: Isaiah Rodgers, Zach Pascal, T.J. Carrie.
- Carson Wentz has been pretty darn efficient away from home this season. In 5 road starts (including a very hobbled Week 3 game in Nashville) this season, Wentz has 7 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions, with an average quarterback rating of 101.
- In the first Colts/Texans matchup (a 31-3 win over the Texans) you saw the Colts with, arguably, their most complete game of the season. They dialed up the most vertical passing we’ve seen all year, with Parris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton making big plays in the first half.
- Speaking of Hilton, he heads to his other home this weekend. In 9 career road games in Houston, Hilton has 52 catches for 1,061 yards and 8 touchdowns. It’s absurd what Hilton has done in his career versus the Texans, especially down there. Hilton had 4 catches for 80 yards in the first matchup with Houston this season.
- Earlier this week, offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said the staff has talked about getting Mo Alie-Cox more involved. In the last 5 weeks, Alie-Cox has had 3 total catches. This is something to keep an eye on.
- The Texans stink on offense. They rank 32nd in total offense, 32nd in rushing, 31st in passing and 32nd in points scored per game. Now, the Colts will see a different QB from their first meeting with Houston. It’ll be Tyrod Taylor (2-3 in 5 starts this year, 62.8 percent, 5 TDs, 4 INTs) and not rookie Davis Mills under center this Sunday. In 7 of 11 games this season, the Texans have scored 14 points or less.
- With a rushing TD on Sunday, Jonathan Taylor can become the first player since LaDanian Tomlinson in 2004 with 10 straight games of having a rushing touchdown. Thanks to Taylor, and others, the Colts rank 1st in the NFL with 5.18 yards per carry.
- The Colts are on their normal practice schedule this week (Wednesday-Friday). They’ll have a Saturday walk-through before traveling to take on the Texans this Sunday at 1:00 PM.