Andrew Luck threw passes on Tuesday amid speculation he’s nursing a partial separation of his right throwing shoulder, stating he was “preparing to start and play.” On Wednesday, there were no reported setbacks as the Indianapolis quarterback looked to suit up in his hometown against AFC South rival Houston following a one-game absence.
No news wasn’t necessarily good news. As was the case last week, the Colts didn’t let anyone see how injured Luck actually is, working him out indoors and away from media scrutiny. On Thursday morning, word came down that Luck would sit once again. Backup Matt Hasselbeck, who got the call last Sunday, will start.
Hasselbeck made his first start since 2012 in a 16-13 overtime win that the Jaguars would’ve secured if not for a pair of missed potential game-winning field goals. He completed 30 of 47 pass attempts for 282 yards and one touchdown without being intercepted.
Although all signs pointed to Luck missing the first start of his career this past Sunday, the build-up was very similar to what transpired this week. Head coach Chuck Paganoadamantly held out hope and divulged little of substance. The announcement came early Sunday morning that Luck wouldn’t be able to go against Jacksonville, but you get the feeling that was always the expectation internally.
As for what transpired this week, the Colts obviously felt they would be better off giving him additional time to rest prior to their next game, Sunday night Oct. 18 vs. New England. Pagano has said a lot of things in his attempt to say nothing regarding this situation, but also let on earlier Wednesday that “we’re going to do the smart thing.”
Complicating matters for Indianapolis, the 40-year-old Hasselbeck reportedly fell ill to start the week, so the team brought back Josh Johnson for a second consecutive week despite cutting him on Monday. He was also cut by the Bengals and Jets this preseason but has a strong arm and can really run. Consider Johnson Plan B now.
The majority of shops listed Thursday night’s Week 5 opener as a pick’em until late Wednesday, when the Texans emerged as a 2-point home favorite. Following the news that Luck would sit, Houston was re-installed as a 4-point favorite and a total that had been placed at 44.5/45 was reduced to 41.
Indianapolis has won its last eight games in this Thursday night short-week situation. The Colts have excelled in the compromising situation of a road game on little rest and are looking to set an NFL record with their 16th consecutive division win. Of course, 14 of those wins have come thanks to Luck, while No. 15 last week came as a result of luck given Jacksonville’s place-kicking woes. Indy was downright wasteful in the red zone, going 1-for-4 in delivering touchdowns, losing out altogether once due to another Frank Gore fumble.
Houston comes off a humbling 48-21 loss in Atlanta that saw them down 42-0 through three quarters. Despite leading the Texans to three touchdowns in the fourth, Brian Hoyer won’t be getting his job back – at least to start this game. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t want a controversy, so Ryan Mallett will get his second consecutive start after being handed the reins in Week 2. Unfortunately for O’Brien, it’s a little too late to avoid a situation where both of these guys will be looking over their shoulders since neither was able to separate themselves in the preseason.
Mallett won only home start, playing reasonably well in a 19-9 victory against Tampa Bay, but has been abysmal in road losses in Carolina and Atlanta, completing less than 46 percent of his passes. The hope is that he’ll be able to get comfortable early in Houston, which will likely require a strong start from top receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the NFL’s leader in targets. He’s on pace for a record number after getting 22 passes thrown his way in Atlanta and has 31 receptions, good for fifth in the league. Between their two quarterbacks, the Texans threw it 57 times in Atlanta, gaining 382 yards on their 29 completions, but the majority of those numbers were padded in the fourth quarter since Houston called only four runs.