The questions still are looming on this Texans team, can they continue to climb the ladder after last weeks win? Can they find a consistency to reach their goals? A tough test against a Denver team awaits, who’ve been unlucky themselves not to hold a stronger record. Houston are of course reliant on an unlikely 50% record from New England but the focus must be to reach 12 wins to eclipse last seasons record.
The 15-yard penalty on (sighs) JD Clowney when he drove Nick Foles into the turf, as the Eagles backed up in the end-zone, then allowed Philadelphia to march down the field and score a game winning field goal by Jake Elliott. That was the chance of a post season bye gone. That game signified the limitations of last year’s team. Their inability to run the ball and mounting injuries left the offence running on empty by the time the Colts play-off game rolled around and we all know how that ended.
That 11-win season was the second best in the Texans history but despite not playing to their full potential, this last minute assembly of offence has shown it deserves a seat at the league’s top table. So the goal of 12 wins must be the focus, that would require to win all 4 of their final games, for a team that have yet to win 3-in-row. The visit of Denver to NRG stadium will allow the Texans another chance at three wins on the spin against a rookie QB in in second NFL start.
Drew Lock two touchdown performance buoyed the Broncos in their 4th win of the season after with a last minute field-goal, against the Chargers. Romeo Crennel’s defence despite its place in the standings has shown shoots of recovery and its transformed DB room has been at the heart of it. Crennel is 11-1 against rookie quarterback and has shown his experience when pitted against passers who are not so. Denvers offence sits 28th and has been subject to personnel changes, Joe Flacco injured and now they turn to their 2nd round pick. A clean and efficient game by the Texans defence will be needed to not had any unnecessary advantage in what could be a game easily overlooked, by many of the fanbase.
It will be intriguing if Conley and Roby are active after nursing injuries. It will also give a sense of how the Texans feel about the match up against Denver’s rising star Courtland Sutton at wide-receiver. The Texans, based on their previously two showing should have enough disguises to pressure Lock into mistakes. The Denver coaching staff will have the games against Gardner Minshew as a reference point. But the Texans appear to have a clear shot at a win, if they can hand the ball back to their offence and let them work.
It will be hard to hold out Bradly Roby out of this one, he has a chance to prove Denver were wrong in letting him walk in free agency. Similarly on the other side of the ball, former Texans corner-turned-safety, Kareem Jackson, has point to make. The former first round pick out of Alabama, played nine years in Houston and wasn’t happy with the way it ended. Former GM Brian Gaine was reported to have not even called Jackson, post his contract expiring. Communication issues were a big part of Gaine’s departure and the Texans loss was certainly John Elway and the Bronco’s gain. Jackson showed that he is perfectly suited to safety and provides an elite tackler in the box, despite struggling in his earlier career in pass coverage.
Coupled with Jackson is safety, Justin Simmons, who’s having a stellar year so the Texans will need to rely on the intermediate passing game and running the ball against this Denver Defence who rank 9th and only giving up 19.3 yards per game. The Texans have not run the ball well, since coming out of the bye so it will be vital Carlos and Duke can move the ball agains the 19th placed run defence, to keep their rushers on their heels. Von Miller looks to be returning to the edge today for Denver, his presence was lost last week and he will likely line up against the right tackle or right-tackle rotation, that the coaching staff have opted with since Tytus Howard was placed on IR
Starting fast is of the upmost importance when the Texans can’t rely upon its defence to pull out enough stops. Denver are 31st in passing TD’s and 28th in total yards on offence. So the defence will need to show they are capable of dominating an inexperienced QB, which would be barometer of their mid-season growth, that’s not been felt necessarily in the stats. Building on the 1st quarter touchdown from last week, will be another point on emphasis for the team who will need to keep themselves on the field. The Bronco’s will rely on the run and find match-ups to Sutton and Tight-Ends, Noah Fant & Jeff Heuerman. Whilst Phillip Lindsay is a constant threat in the back-filed at half-back and limited the run game will help the Texans force Lock to throw more than the game plan would account for.
If Watson can see the field and release the ball quickly, the game is his to take, just is every game he plays. There are expectations on the Texans to exploit match-up at Tight End – as the trio of Fells, Atkins and Thomas should expect to see plenty of action. Will Fuller isn’t available to stretch the field, as the team’s medicals staff are being overly cautious with his hamstring. Fuller’s absence may also provide a chance for slot WR Keke Coutee to revive is Texans career. It will at least give an indication of how far he’s fallen down the depth chart. Coutee’s talent isn’t in question, but he needs a big performance to work his way back into the teams rotation at the position.
The Texans have a real chance to put pressure on New England, who play Kansas City in the later kick-off. The team are still relenting the early season slips, but their goals are still very much in front of them, where they can’t afford to see past Denver, on Battle Red Sunday.
Denver @ Houston: Dec. 8 at 12:00 p.m. CT
CBS (Kevin Harlan & Rich Gannon)
Referee: Adrian Hill
8.5 points Favourite – Texans.