By Danny Cox
When Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler bolted, some thought that the Denver Broncos might go from Super Bowl champs to cellar-dwellers in the AFC. Now, they’re sitting at 4-2 and doing quite well behind the arm of Trevor Siemian. Unfortunately, old faces always end up coming back around and it is now time for them to face off with Osweiler and his Houston Texans squad.
The Broncos are in the middle of a two-game losing streak and they are about to welcome in the Texans, who are playing well and coming off a big come-from-behind overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Texans Season Record: 4-2
Houston may have two losses on their record so far, but they are losses to a couple of the best teams in the NFL right now – the New England Patriots and undefeated Minnesota Vikings. Their victories have been impressive and that is especially true for this past Sunday’s victory over the Colts.
Texans on Offense
Osweiler leads a very talented Texans’ offense that has him passing to DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller at the wide receiver positions. C.J. Fiedorowicz has been dealing with some injuries, but he should be ready to go against the Broncos. Osweiler has a large number of weapons at his disposal and he is turning lower-level talent into top players.
Out of the offensive backfield, running back Lamar Miller is having a fantastic season as he has already racked up 520 yards on the ground. Now, the Texans are not a huge running team and it shows in the fact that they have just one touchdown on the ground and the strong defensive line and linebackers of the Broncos need to remember that when pressuring Osweiler.
Texans on Defense
The loss of J.J. Watt was crushing, but the Texans have managed to do well in his absence. Jadevon Clowney’s move to linebacker in the 3-4 defense has worked well for him and Siemian is going to have to know where he is the entire day. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus is also incredibly dangerous and leads the Texans so far this season with 4.5 sacks.
If looking for a weakness, Osweiler may have the Broncos’ wide receiver try to get behind an injured Houston secondary. Both Jonathan Joseph and Quintin Demps have dealt with a number of injuries and it isn’t even known if Demps will be playing this week.
Players to Watch: QB Brock Osweiler and LB Benardrick McKinney
For the first time in years, the Texans finally look to have a leader at quarterback and Osweiler has found himself a home where he doesn’t have to play in anyone’s shadow. He already has more than 1,400 passing yards this season with eight touchdowns. One thing that the Broncos may be able to capitalize on, though, is that he’s prone to turnovers when pressured (eight interceptions) and sacks (12).
The impressive crop of linebackers for the Texans is very deep and it shows in second-year player Benardrick McKinney. He is leading the entire Houston team with 60 total tackles to go along with his three sacks and one forced fumble. This guy is all over the field and knows exactly how to locate the ball in a moment’s notice.
This is not going to be an easy game for either team to win and it’s going to take everything they have to pull out a victory. Winning this game could say a lot for who is the number two team in the AFC behind the New England Patriots right now. Denver truly can’t afford a third straight loss, but it won’t be simple to get one over the Texans and the man they once thought would lead them into the post-Peyton Manning era in Brock Osweiler.