The Houston Texans travel to the Mile High City for a Week 3 contest with the Denver Broncos. The Texans will try to start a season 3-0 for the first time in franchise history. They also will get reacquainted with old friend Peyton Manning, who will be in the orange and blue instead of the white and blue of the Indianapolis Colts. Manning had the Texans number while with Indy, posting a 16-2 record against Houston and never losing a home game to the Texans.
A lot has changed in the two years since Houston last faced Manning. The Texans went from being ranked 30th in the NFL in total defense and 32nd in dead last in pass defense to 2nd in total defense and 3rd in pass defense last season. The Texans are first in both categories through the first 2 weeks this season, and are allowing only 8.5 points per game. The Broncos and Manning will be a step up in competition from Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert from the first 2 games.
The Texans are 1-2 all-time against the Broncos, and will be looking for their first victory in Denver after losing both of their games there. The last time these two teams met was the day after Christmas 2010, and the Broncos won that game 24-23 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High thanks to a comeback led by former Bronco QB Tim Tebow.
Houston returns to Denver in great shape health wise. The only player who was not a full participant in practice Friday was special teams captain LB Tim Dobbins. Dobbins has not practiced all week with an injured hamstring and is questionable for Sunday. He will be a game time decision. Fellow special teams dynamo and LB Bryan Braman had a full practice after recovering from a hamstring injury of his own and will likely see his first action of the season Sunday after being sidelined the first 2 weeks of the season.
For the Broncos G Chris Kuper is the only player listed as out for Sunday’s game. CB Chris Harris will return to action after missing Denver’s week 2 loss to the Atlanta Falcons with an ankle injury. That will be a plus for the Broncos secondary as they look to contain Houston’s passing game.
The Texans are very balanced on offense, but the focal point will likely once again be the running game on Sunday. The Texans would love a repeat of week 2 or at least close to it. They rushed for 216 yards and possessed the ball for 43:17. Numbers similar to those would keep Manning and company on the sideline, and although there have been questions about his arm strength since his return from injury, the Texans know that will be the best place for #18 to be Sunday.
If the one-two rushing punch of Arian Foster and Ben Tate can run well and control the clock, the Texans should be in great shape. A matchup I like Sunday is TE Owen Daniels against Denver’s linebackers and safeties.
On defense, they will look to continue dominating. Led by DE J.J. Watt, the Texans defense has been suffocating the first two weeks. Watt and company will look to get to Manning the same way they did Tannehill and Gabbert. The Bulls on Parade will also have to slow down RB Willis McGahee, who had over 100 yards and 2 TDs vs the Falcons. McGahee is coming off of a Pro-Bowl season, and is 3rd among all active backs in career rushing yards. He trails only Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams and Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers.
In my Texans 2012 preview column, this was a game I picked the Texans to suffer their first loss of the season. However, after seeing the way their defense has performed the first two weeks, I am liking them to go into Denver and pull out the victory. Vegas has the Texans as a 2.5 point favorite. I look for them to cover the spread and beat the Broncos in an entertaining game.
Texans 24 Broncos 20