It’s not often that two sub-.500 teams square off in December with first place in their division at stake, but that will be the case Sunday when the Colts and Texans – both 6-7 – meet in Indianapolis in a crucial AFC South showdown. Making this matchup even more unusual is that each club could have a backup quarterback at the helm. Thanks to a concussion, the Texans will likely be without No. 1 man Brian Hoyer, meaning they’ll turn to T.J. Yates. On the other side, it’s currently unknown which of the three Colts QBs will be under center.
Andrew Luck – who has been out since early November with a lacerated spleen – is hoping to return this week, though Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star writes that his status is in doubt. Luck has multiple hurdles to jump before he can make his much-anticipated comeback, as Holder notes: Team doctors have to clear him twice – once to return to practice, again to actually suit up in a game. Given that Luck’s injury is internal, the Colts aren’t going to force him back into the lineup prematurely and put his health at greater risk. For his part, Luck acknowledges that his conditioning is in need of work after missing so much time.
“Throwing felt great,” he said Monday, according to Holder. “Conditioning-wise, it’s a process. When you take time off, it takes a little more time to get back into it.”
As if Luck’s injury situation isn’t frustrating enough for the Colts, reserve Matt Hasselbeck is also banged up. The 40-year-old’s left arm is in a sling thanks to a rib injury he suffered in Sunday’s 51-16 loss to Jacksonville, and head coach Chuck Pagano said Hasselbeck is dealing with spasms associated with the injury. Pagano added that Hasselbeck will try to return to practice on Thursday, and expressed optimism regarding his status for the Houston game.
“I fully anticipate him being available for us,” Pagano said.
If the worst happens for Indy and both Luck and Hasselbeck aren’t ready by Sunday, the Colts will turn to third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst with their season at stake.