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AFC-South Leading Colts Face Slumping Texans

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(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

HOUSTON (AP) – Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck and Texans quarterback Case Keenum both have strong ties to Houston, are in their second year in the NFL, and are starting for their respective teams.

That’s where their similarities end.

Luck was the first overall pick in the 2012 draft and started from Day 1. Keenum joined the Texans as an undrafted free agent and spent all of last season on the practice squad.

Luck has thrown for 1,574 yards and 10 touchdowns. Keenum had 271 yards passing and a touchdown in his only NFL game on Oct. 20.

The pair will meet Sunday night when the AFC South-leading Colts face a Houston team looking to end a five-game skid.

“I think you realize when you go into an NFL locker room, after a certain period of time, it doesn’t matter where you’re drafted or how you got there,” Luck said. “If you get a chance and you play well, that’s what matters.”

Keenum agreed.

“Drafted first overall or undrafted, I think, it’s kind of all put to the side when it comes down to it,” Keenum said.

Luck went to high school in Houston before attending Stanford. Keenum is from Abilene, Texas and set career NCAA records for yards passing (19,217) and touchdown passes (155) at the University of Houston.

Keenum made his NFL debut in Houston’s last game filling in for an injured Matt Schaub. The Texans lost 17-16, but coach Gary Kubiak saw enough promise in Keenum to give him another start with Schaub healthy.

“I think (he’s) growing,” Kubiak said. “I liked him or I wouldn’t have brought him here in the first place. I think he has all of the physical ability to do what you need to do in this league to be successful.”

Five things to know about the Colts-Texans game:

BANGED-UP BACKS: Houston’s top two running backs are dealing with injuries and are questionable. Starter Arian Foster has missed practice this week with a hamstring injury he sustained early in the last game. Backup Ben Tate finished that game despite breaking four ribs in the third quarter. He’s said he expects to play Sunday.

Houston signed three running backs on Monday to add depth: rookies Ray Graham and Dennis Johnson, and fourth-year player Deji Karim. Karim played three games for the Colts late last season, mostly on special teams. He had a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last season to help the Colts to a 28-16 win in their last meeting with Houston.

REGGIE’S REPLACEMENT: Sunday will be Indianapolis’ first game without star receiver Reggie Wayne, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a win over Denver. With the Pro Bowler out, the Colts will look to 2008 first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and second-year player T.Y. Hilton to pick up the slack. Heyward-Bey has 18 receptions for 190 yards and a touchdown, and Hilton has 27 receptions for 412 yards and two scores.

AVOIDING ED: Houston’s Ed Reed has just 14 tackles with no interceptions in five games this season, causing some to wonder if he can still be a difference maker at age 35. Coach Chuck Pagano does not have that doubt.

Pagano was asked how to account for him.

“Don’t throw in his direction, first of all,” Pagano said. “Wherever he’s at, just tell the quarterback, `Don’t go near him.’ That’s one way. That’s easier said than done.”

Reed leads active players with 61 career interceptions and has four against the Colts.

MONSTER MATHIS: Indianapolis linebacker Robert Mathis has already tied his career high with 11 1/2 sacks. He reached the mark in both 2005 and 2008.

“The second year in (this defense), he’s much more comfortable,” Pagano said. “Obviously, it was a huge transition a year ago for him, going from a 4-3 end to a stand up outside linebacker. … We’re not surprised that he’s putting the numbers up that he is.”

Mathis has 103 sacks in his 11-year career. He’s had 15 1/2 against Houston, which is the most of any opponent.

NO CUSHING: The Texans are trying to regroup after losing star linebacker Brian Cushing to a season-ending knee injury for the second straight year.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been down this road before and some guys will have to step up,” Kubiak said.

Fourth-year player Darryl Sharpton will take over for Cushing, and Kubiak will look to fellow starting linebackers Joe Mays and Brooks Reed to help make Sharpton’s transition easier.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org

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