TV Schedule: Sunday, Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Stadium: Reliant Stadium
Weather: High 66, Low 39
Line: Denver (-10)
While the Denver Broncos have already locked up a playoff spot, they are hoping to win out in order to lock up a division crown. Starting the season red-hot, the Broncos looked unbeatable, but three losses later, the Broncos have been exposed defensively — and some would argue in cold weather as well. Peyton Manning is having an MVP-type season, passing for 4,811 yards and 47 touchdowns, leading the best offense in the NFL by far. Demaryius Thomas leads all receivers with 78 catches for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns while Eric Decker is close behind with 1,130 yards and eight touchdowns on 73 catches — the team misses Wes Welker, however, who has been out with a concussion. Knowshon Moreno leads the rushing attack with 939 yards and 10 scores.
On the other side of the field, the Houston Texans have been as bad as bad can be this season, losing 12 straight games after starting the season 2-0. Matt Schaub lost his starting job after suffering an injury and watching Case Keenum excel in his absence — all while Gary Kubiak was in the midst of losing his job. Keenum has passed for 1,760 yards and nine touchdowns, but has thrown four less interceptions than Schaub had before his benching. Keenum has developed quite the connection with veteran wide out Andre Johnson who has caught 99 passes for 1,295 yards and five touchdowns. Arian Foster was lost for the season with an injury and backup Ben Tate has filled in nicely, rushing for 771 yards and four scores.
Defensively, the Broncos have struggled this season — especially through the air. It’s hard to win games when the only means of winning comes offensively. Denver has one of the worst passing defenses in the nation, ranking 28th in passing yards allowed while also ranking 24th in points allowed, 23rd in total yards allowed and 11th in rushing yards allowed. The Texans have been far more impressive on defense this season, ranking fourth in total yards and second in passing yards allowed, but they have struggled against the run, ranking 24th.
PREDICTION: Broncos 35, Texans 17
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.