Tale Of The Tape: Denver Broncos At Houston Texans
- QuarterbackThe Broncos are coming off a rare poor game against the Chargers in Week 15, but the football Gods smiled on them because the Patriots also lost and it did not cost Denver the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Peyton Manning has thrown 47 TD passes this season and it seems quite likely he will throw at least three TD passes this week and hit the 50 mark for the season.It’s hard to imagine a worse season than the Texans have endured this season. They were viewed as a clear-cut playoff team at the start of the season and after winning their first two games, they have lost 12 straight. It doesn’t figure to end here with Case Keenum lining up under center. While he has mobility and decent passing skills, Keenum makes big mistakes at key moments and is quite unreliable.
- OffenseWhile the Broncos can light up the scoreboard against any opponent, they are not as strong when wide receiver Wes Welker (concussion) cannot play. Welker gets open with ease and will not drop the ball, and he makes a huge contribution. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are both excellent receivers who can make big plays. Knowshon Moreno (939 yards) has been a tough and consistent running back.While the Texans have endured a brutal season, it’s hard not to be impressed with running back Ben Tate. Despite suffering broken ribs earlier in the year, Tate has lined up every week and run with power. Andre Johnson is still one of the best receivers in football and his size and strength give him an edge on most defensive backs. DeAndre Hopkins is an emerging talent who can make tough catches.
- DefenseThe Broncos play with effort and are a hard-hitting team on defense, but they are quite vulnerable as they rank 23rd overall and 28th against the pass. Linebacker Danny Trevathan has had an excellent season and he leads the team with 114 tackles and he also has 12 passes defensed. Strong safety Duke Ihenacho is a huge hitter who has forced three fumbles and has two fumble recoveries.Those who tend to dismiss yardage allowed as a viable stat gain a lot of credibility for their position when the Texans are placed under the microscope. While they have lost 12 games in a row, they rank fourth in overall defense. Defensive end J.J. Watt has 69 tackles, 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Linebacker Daryl Sharpton leads the team with 73 tackles.
- Special TeamsThe Broncos will win the battle on special teams against most opponents and they should have a big edge over the Texans. Trindon Holliday is one of the best return men in the league. Matt Prater has had a remarkable year, making 20-of-21 FG attempts.The Texans' inability to compete on even terms with their special teams have been an issue for several seasons. They struggle in punt and kickoff coverage and rarely get an explosive return from Keshawn Martin. Randy Bullock is a below average NFL kicker.
Peyton Manning had to be thrilled that the Broncos still held the pole position in the AFC after the Week 15 results. Look for the Broncos to get back on track with an easy win here. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor