Matt Schaub bounced back after a tough start to last season to command the NFL's third-ranked offense. The questions about Schaub are not so much about his ability to play at a high level, but more about his ability to suit up for 16 games.
The Colts have one of the best regular season quarterbacks in the history of the game in Peyton Manning, who seemingly never misses a game. Manning directs the Colts offense with fluidity, and has for years.
Big edge: Colts
Houston features last season's super rookie, Steve Slaton, who may have been the best first-year running back in the game. Behind Slaton is oft-injured veteran Chris Brown, Ryan Moats, and undrafted rookies Jeremiah Johnson and Arian Foster.
The Colts running game is underrated as they have former Pro Bowler Joseph Addai as well as first-round pick Donald Brown in the backfield. With some changes in the coaching staff as well as a young offensive line, this could be the year that Indianapolis really leans on the running game.
Perhaps the most talented position group on the team, the Texans boast Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, who could be the very best wideout in the game. To compliment Johnson, Houston has Kevin Walter who has a knack for finding the end zone, and slot-machine David Anderson. Throw in Jacoby Jones and Andre Davis and the Texans are loaded.
Indianapolis has always had a top-notch wide receiving corps, and this will be the first time since 1996 that the team has gone to camp without Marvin Harrison. Will it matter? Not likely. The Colts have perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne to go along with Anthony Gonzalez, and if they get anything from Roy Hall or Austin Collie, the Indy receivers could be better than ever.
Houston may have the most tight end depth in the league, assuming Pro Bowler Owen Daniels is in camp on time and focused. The Texans drafted blocking end Anthony Hill and do-everything guy James Casey, and if they choose to keep four tight ends, Joel Dreesen could be a contributor.
The Colts have perhaps the best tight end in the game never to make a Pro Bowl in Dallas Clark, who is an impossible matchup with his size, speed, and agility. Gijon Robinson, Jacob Tamme, and Tom Santi could all contribute as well behind Clark
Slight edge: Texans
We believe this group has the potential to be the best offensive line in franchise history. There is a question of whether or not 2008 first-round pick Duane Brown will be able to be an effective full-time left tackle, but we feel confident in his abilities. The interior of the line should be improved with third-round pick, Antoine Caldwell.
The Colts have made it a point over the last two years stockpiling young talent on their offensive line, and they performed well in 2008 despite there being many changes. Jeff Saturday still anchors the middle with Tony Ugoh at left tackle protecting Peyton Manning's blind side. Add in veteran Ryan Diem and rookie Jaimie Thomas, and Indy has depth at tackle.
Houston may have the best end in the game in Mario Williams, and free agent acquisition Antonio Smith should have a big year because of Williams. Add in second-round pick Connor Barwin and undrafted rookie Tim Jamison, and the Texans have their best group of pass rushers in team history. On the inside, Amobi Okoye is looking to bounce back from an injury-filled 2008 campaign, and Travis Johnson is just looking to prove he belongs as an NFL starter. The team acquired former Lion Shaun Cody to go along with Tim Bulman, Frank Okam and DelJuan Robinson.
Indianapolis has always had smaller, lightning fast defensive ends, and it has paid off, especially at home on the fast track of Lucas Oil Stadium. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are amongst the best bookends in the league, and Raheem Brock supplies solid depth. Indy has some questions in the middle as Ed Johnson and Keyunta Dawson are less than stellar. The Colts will be depending on rookies Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor to make an impact.
Slight edge: Colts
Houston seemingly has more talented linebackers than spots for them as they have star MLB DeMeco Ryans, along with first-round pick Brian Cushing. The battle for the other outside position will be interesting, as the ultra-talented Zac Diles is coming off a broken leg, and Xavier Adibi was impressive last year as a rookie. Add in veterans Cato June and Buster Davis and the Texans are loaded on the second level of their defense.
The Colts have always been able to let veterans go and plug in young players at linebacker and not have much of a drop-off in production. Gary Brackett anchors the unit in the middle, and Freddy Keiaho, Tyjuan Hagler, Phillip Wheeler and Clint Session will likely battle for playing time on the outside.
Big edge: Texans
If the Texans have questions on their team it's in the secondary. Dunta Robinson is the best corner the team has, possibly ever, but he's unhappy with his contract situation as the team franchised him. Fred Bennett and Jacques Reeves will be fighting for the starting job opposite Robinson, and don't count out Antwaun Molden or rookie Glover Quin.
Indianapolis actually spent money this offseason on the cornerback position as they gave Kelvin Hayden a rich new deal. Playing opposite Hayden will likely be former first-round pick Marlin Jackson, and the likely slot man will be Tim Jennings.
The Houston safeties are possibly the weakest position group on the team as the expected starters are Eugene Wilson and Nick Ferguson. Dominique Barber will compete for playing time along with rookie Troy Nolan.
The Colts may have the best safety in the NFL when healthy in Bob Sanders, who loves to take running back's heads off. Sanders is also great against the pass. Playing opposite Sanders will likely by Antoine Bethea, who has a knack for making big plays. Melvin Bullitt and Jamie Silva provide excellent depth.
Big edge: Colts
The Texans special teams specialists are very good as Kris Brown is one of the league's most accurate kickers, and Matt Turk has a booming leg. Andre Davis and Jacoby Jones handled kickoff and punt duties respectively a year ago, and Troy Nolan and Glover Quin could be in the mix in 2009.
Indianapolis features legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri, who is on the down-side of his career, but is still accurate inside of 40 yards. The team will likely go with a rookie punter as West Virginia's Pat McAfee and Kentucky's Tim Masthay will battle it out during camp. The Colts could use numerous players for kick return duties as rookie Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Roy Hall, and T.J. Rushing could all figure in.
Big edge: Texans
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