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INDIANAPOLIS – When Frank Reich uses the word ‘optimistic’ to describe his outlook on injured guys late in the week, that’s usually a good sign for them playing that weekend.

The Colts play the Texans tomorrow in Houston, after securing a wild card spot last week. Kick-off is 4:35.

Reich’s words, plus Ryan Kelly and Clayton Geathers practicing full and getting back to their normal routines this week has both of them in line to play on Saturday afternoon against the Texans.

“We know each other well,” said quarterback Andrew Luck, following the final practice of the week Thursday. “I thin even when we were one and five, the approach was the same. It’s a consistency to get better, an obsession to get better every day as a team.”

Coach Frank Reich said the Colts have been working on a variety of plays to meet whatever the Texans will throw at them. 

Reich’s words, plus Ryan Kelly and Clayton Geathers practicing FULL and getting back to their normal routines this week has both of them in line to play on Saturday afternoon against the Texans.

Here are the takeaways from the Colts’ final practice of the week in preparing for their Wild Card matchup against the Texans:

  • Frank Reich ruled just two players out for Saturday: WR-Ryan Grant (toe), DL-Tyquan Lewis (knee).
  • Ryan Kelly practiced both days this week and is ready to get back into the starting lineup on Saturday. That means the Colts will have their best starting line back together for the first time since Week 11. That was the stretch when Andrew Luck wasn’t sacked in 239 straight pass attempts. The Colts average 1.2 yards per carry more when Kelly is in the in lineup this season. “We have to see how he responds with the whole week but still very optimistic,” Reich said of Kelly playing against Houston after Thursday’s final practice of the week. Kelly is no longer on the injury report, so he is good to go for Saturday.
  • After not practicing the last two weeks, Clayton Geathers returned to more of his normal routine this week. He fully practiced on Wednesday (the equivalent to a Thursday practice on a normal week), before taking Thursday off. Geathers is listed as questionable, but he looks to be trending towards a guy playing for the first time since the Dallas game. “He did look good (Wednesday),” Reich said of Geathers after the Colts’ final practice of the week.
  • So, T.Y. Hilton has practiced just 2 times in the last 5 weeks, including missing the entire practice week in each of the last two weeks. One thing to note on Hilton and his reps as of late. He played 81 percent of the team’s offensive snaps against the Titans, which isn’t too much of a difference from the reps he’s received in the second half of the season. Of course, how many of those plays was Hilton mostly a decoy, as he had just 2 catches in 6 targets (with one of those catches coming behind the line of scrimmage)? Frank Reich said on Thursday that if this were earlier in the season, the Colts probably would have rested Hilton for a game or two. The Colts can’t afford that at this point of the season. Given his health, it’s even more amazing that Hilton has 163 more receiving yards than any other player since Week 10.
  • With Tyquan Lewis (knee) out for Saturday, I’d expect Al-Quadin Muhammad to see his playing time rise a good amount. The Colts could also use rookie Kemoko Turay, although his role has really shrunk as of late.
  • Saturday will be Andrew Luck’s 7th career playoff game (3-3 record). Luck’s individual numbers have not been great in the postseason, especially away from home. In the postseason, Luck is 147-for-260 (56.5{a951f02a8cac8e6d7fde2726b1b22da104131bed62748b49fddce88fa07005a6}), for 1,829 yards, 9 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 70.8. On the other hand, Luck hasn’t been in the postseason in a few years and he has torched the Texans this season with 863 passing yards, 6 touchdowns and 1 interception.
  • How stingy is the Texans rush defense? They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all year long (just like the Colts). In fact, only two guys have rushed for more than 70 yards against the Texans all year long (Saquon Barkley-82, LeSean McCoy-73). Marlon Mack has 6 such games in his 12 games played this season.
  • The Colts have had a 124-point turnaround in 4th quarter point differential this season. Last year, the Colts were minus 82 in the final quarter. This year, the Colts are plus 42 in the final quarter. Reich points to focus, conditioning, coaching adjustments and the players believing in the ‘obsession to finish’ mantra for those reasons.
  • As expected, the Colts signed cornerback Jalen Collins back to the practice squad on Thursday morning. Collins’ spot was needed because of the injury to Tyquan Lewis and needing another defensive lineman (Geneo Grissom).
  • Listen to praise Frank Reich handed out to Nyheim Hines on Thursday. Remember, Hines finished the year with 63 catches, the third most in franchise rookie history and the third most in the NFL this season among first-year players: “He’s definitely exceeded expectations,” Reich said of Hines. “We had a role in mind for Nyheim when we drafted him after looking at his college tape. Chris (Ballard) and his staff really did a nice job of getting Nyheim in front of our eyes as well. He has greatly exceeded I think the role we had envisioned. He’s just developed faster. I think we thought he could get to where he’s at right now, but he’s just ahead of the process. There was no shortcuts to that. He’s worked as hard as anybody. The guy works really, really hard. He does all the little things right. He’s very dependable. Because of all the work he puts in, Andrew has a tremendous amount of trust in him. He’s really been instrumental in the amount of success of this offense.” Reich said the route tree for Hines has expanded as the year has gone along.

On Thursday, Darius Leonard was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month. I hope he has a room in his Indy home strictly for awards. I swear he wins a different award every week.

Jack Doyle was at practice on Thursday. Doyle first injured his kidney and went on injured reserve back on Nov. 25. After a few weeks away from the facility, Doyle has returned in taking in meetings/practice. He is on IR and cannot return this season.

Another reason on why Andrew Luck should be Comeback Player of the Year, here are his numbers from 2018, with his yearly career ranks in parenthesis: 430 completions (1st), 639 attempts (1st), 67.3 completion percentage (1st), 98.7 quarterback rating (1st), 4,593 passing yards (2nd), 39 touchdowns (2nd), 2.3 INT percentage (2nd), 7.2 yards per attempt (3rd).



OUT: WR-Ryan Grant (toe), DL-Tyquan Lewis (knee)

Bowen’s Analysis: Grant got hurt during the win over the Titans.

DOUBTFUL: S-J.J. Wilcox (ankle)

Bowen’s Analysis: Wilcox must have gotten hurt during practice as he was a new addition to the injury report on Thursday. He has been playing in sub packages as of late.

QUESTIONABLE: S-Clayton Geathers (knee), WR-T.Y. Hilton (ankle), WR-Dontrelle Inman (shoulder/finger) DL-Jabaal Sheard (knee), WR-Zach Pascal (ankle)

Bowen’s Analysis: Some key receivers on this list. I’d expect all of these guys to give it a go though.

The following players were on the injury report earlier in the week but have since been removed: WR-Reece Fountain (ankle), S-Malik Hooker (hip), C-Ryan Kelly (neck), LB-Anthony Walker (shoulder), RB-Jordan Wilkins (knee/ankle).

PHOTO: Getty Images/Joe Robbins