Get inside this week's Colts-Texans matchup with a look at Michael Pittman Jr., Kwity Paye, Davis Mills and the possible season debut of T.Y. Hilton. JJ Stankevitz
1. The continuing emergence of Michael Pittman Jr.
Through five games, Michael Pittman Jr. has 29 receptions for 368 yards with one touchdown - putting him on pace for 99 receptions and 1,252 yards. The second-year wide receiver is trending toward the kind of breakout season a lot of folks saw coming during training camp.
"Pitt has made a really, really huge jump," wide receiver Parris Campbell said in August.
"He just wants to hit somebody and that wins football games," head coach Frank Reich said, also in August.
"Pittman, you can tell is playing much faster, is more confident in what he's doing, understanding defenses much better and how the DB is playing him," offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said in, you guessed it, August.
Not only is Pittman racking up catches and yards, he's making big plays - like his 42-yard snaps in Weeks 2 and 5 - and he's playing clean ball, too:
And beyond the quantifiable production Pittman is giving the Colts, he's been a big part of driving the tough, physical identity this offense is building.
"He just provides big-time playmaking ability and the other thing he provides is a mental toughness that I think the team feels," Reich said. "We all feel that, like when he makes plays like he made out there on Monday night, I think we feed off that.
"... "Pitt's not going to back down from anybody. No chance."
2. Will T.Y. Hilton play?
Reich said the Colts will make a decision Saturday whether or not to activate wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (neck) off injured reserve. Hilton returned to practice this week, which opened a three-week window in which the Colts can activate him off injured reserve.
The Colts held a walk-thru practice on Wednesday and a "jog-thru" practice Thursday, leaving Friday as the only "normal" day of practice this week following an appearance on Monday Night Football. Reich said he thought Hilton looked good on Friday but the Colts need to see how he responds to his first true day of practice since late August.
Reich added the issue for Hilton is not where his neck is right now, it's more about where he stands physically heading into Week 6.
"My understanding is when this is healed, it's healed - there's no concerns. That's again, above my pay grade but the doctors give the clearance and they say, 'Oh, he's ready to go.' That was my question at the beginning of the week, if he physically is ready come Sunday, do we need to limit him as far as number of reps? The answer is no. You don't have to limit him. It's just based on how you feel where he's at physically. You know T.Y. (Hilton), he's taken good care of himself. He works hard, I mean that guy works hard. He's in shape, he stays in shape. He does everything possible to help this team. I feel good about where he's at. We'll check with him tomorrow, but I'm cautiously optimistic."
Again, whether or not Hilton makes his season debut Sunday against the Texans - a team he's had an incredible amount of success against - remains to be seen. The Colts have not decided anything yet.
But that it's even a question is a testament to Hilton's toughness, experience and commitment. This is a guy who thought he might have to retire a month and a half ago.
So could Hilton play after one week of lighter-than-usual practice?
"Considering his experience, his competitiveness and just who he is, his leadership - if there is anyone who can do it," Reich said, "it's him."
3. One player who will play? Kwity Paye.
Paye missed the Colts' last two games with a hamstring injury he suffered early in Week 3. He's still seeking his first career sack but could be looking at a more favorable matchup against a Houston offensive line that'll be without stalwart left tackle Laremy Tunsil on Sunday. Tunsil has not allowed a sack this season and he hasn't even allowed a pressure since Week 3.
The Texans' offensive line, as a whole, enters Week 6 ranked 24th in pressure rate (37.7 percent) per PFF; only the Seattle Seahawks have allowed a higher rate of "quick pressures," which come under 2 1/2 seconds after the snap, than the Texans (30.3 percent).
Paye, by the way, said he was close to playing on Monday against the Ravens.
"It lowkey was going to be - it would have been like a tight, tight call if I were to play last game," Paye said. "I could have. I felt like I could have muscled through it but it was kind of like a thing where it was really, really close but just not there yet. So, coming back this week I feel like I'll be full-go. I'll be ready."
4. Three reasons to not under-estimate the Texans.
The Houston Texans are 1-4 and are 28th in Football Outsiders' DVOA. The Colts are 30-9 all-time against the Texans. But this is not a game for the Colts to overlook. A few quick things to know:
-- Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills had a higher passer rating in Week 5 (141.7) than Lamar Jackson (140.5), and he did it against a New England Patriots defense that ranks 8th in DVOA against the pass.
-- Wide receiver Brandin Cooks is a bona fide No. 1 wideout: He has 31 receptions on 43 targets for 392 yards and, like Pittman, has not dropped a pass this year. The wide receivers with the next-highest share of targets on the Texans are Pharoah Brown and Anthony Miller (who's not on the team anymore) with 11. The Colts will get cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (ankle) back this week, while fellow cornerback Xavier Rhodes (concussion) is questionable.
-- Under the watch of defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, the Texans rank fifth in interceptions (six), 11th in passer rating allowed (91.3) and ninth in pass defense DVOA. Houston doesn't get after opposing quarterbacks much (30th in sacks, 32nd in QB hits) but their play in the back end has been strong.
5. A different kicker for the Colts.
Rodrigo Blankenship (right hip) will miss a game for the first time in his NFL career on Sunday. Blankenship's hip flared up during pregame warmups before the Colts' Week 5 game against the Ravens, in which he missed a PAT, had a field goal blocked and then missed what would've been a game-winning 47-yard field goal. Blankenship said after the game he felt a stabbing pain in his hip every time he cocked his leg back to kick.
The Colts signed Michael Badgley to their practice squad this week and will elevate him to the active roster on gameday. Badgley began his pro career with the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2018, and he spent the offseason program and training camp in Indianapolis before landing with the Los Angeles Chargers. In his career, Badgley is 52/66 on field goals and 83/88 on extra points.