INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts entered the season as an underdog in the AFC South. They were one of three teams supposed to be looking up at the Houston Texans, who won the last two division titles and were labeled as Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.
Seven games and five season-ending injuries into the season, it’s the Colts sitting at the top looking down on the rest of the division.
And the Texans? They’ve been one of the biggest disappointments in the league this season with their 2-5 record.
The Colts (5-2) are in the position to add more misery to the Texans’ season when they play on Sunday. Indianapolis has a two-game lead over second-place Tennessee, which plays at St. Louis this weekend, in the division.
“There’s a saying, ‘To be the champ, you have to beat the champ,’” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “(The Texans) are the champs. In order to get it back, we have to go down there and handle our business each and every week.”
The Texans have lost five straight games and they benched starting quarterback Matt Schaub in favor of Case Keenum, who played at the University of Houston, in an attempt to turn around their season around.
“It’s been rough for about five weeks, so we’re just trying to get it improved,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “We probably needed the bye week …Trying to focus on ourselves, cleaning up our football play and not hurting ourselves the way we’ve been hurting us and trying to just be more consistent.”
The Colts have only played one division game this season – at Jacksonville on Sept. 29 – so five of their remaining nine games will be against AFC South counterparts. The Colts have lost their last three games to the Texans in Houston by an average of about 16 points a game.
“First and foremost, our number one goal is to win the division,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “The road to winning the division goes through Houston. They’ve won it the last two years. We’ve got to go down there and play very, very well. Try to win this game in order to give ourselves a chance to win the division.”
The Colts have owned the AFC South since it started in 2002. They won 81 percent of their division games, including going a perfect 6-0 twice, during a stretch where they won the division seven out of eight seasons. Indianapolis only has eight players still on its roster from the last time it won the division in 2010.
“Our young guys, they mature fast,” Mathis said. “I wouldn’t say there any rookies in the locker room. We ran that gauntlet with Seattle, San Fran, Denver and now we have Houston. Make no mistake about it, they are a tough team. They are the division winners the last two years so we have to handle business.”