The Houston Texans will put their five-game win streak on the line at Mile High against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Like Thursday night's matchup against Brock Osweiler, the Texans again will face a former quarterback in Case Keenum. However, unlike Brock, people in Houston still cheer for Case to succeed ever since his days at the University of Houston, except this upcoming Sunday that is.
This game will be won by the team who can win in the trenches as both teams have defensive fronts capable of wrecking the game. While the Broncos are 2nd in the league in sacks with 24, and 11th overall in pass defense allowing 237.5 yards a game, and their pass defense is pretty stout, their soft spot would be against the run, as Denver is 27th in the NFL against the run. Therefore, it is imperative Houston comes out physical and establishes the run not only to stay out of 3rd and long situations, but also to prevent Von Miller and that Denver pass rush from pinning their ears back and going after Watson.
Case Keenum faces no picnic either, as Houston's defense has been one of the best all season. Led by the resurgence of JJ Watt, Houston is 10th in the league in sacks, are are just outside the top 10 in passing yards a game allowed. However, Houston is also 7th in rushing yards allowed per game. Houston's got the edge in scoring defense allowing 20.9 points a game, while Denver is 14th allowing 24.3 points per game.
Keenum, like most other quarterbacks, can hurt you with a clean pocket. Therefore it is important Watt and Company establish their presence early and make Keenum’s day as uncomfortable as possible.
Returning to the Texans’ offense, quarterback Deshaun Watson is a full-go to fly for Sunday's game. How Watson fares in the altitude remains to be seen, but the fact he can fly is a good sign that his lung and ribs are healing well. Of course, having a mini-bye week might have helped the healing process.
Making a move to help their franchise quarterback, the Texans added wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to fill the void after Will Fuller was lost for the season. Adding Thomas will help ease the pressure off of Hopkins, as well as improving the short to intermediate passing attack. Thomas is probably more ecstatic about the deal than anyone else because he now gets the opportunity to play with a stud quarterback. Since Peyton Manning retired from the NFL, Thomas has endured a struggle similar to Hopkins pre-Watson: playing with three different quarterbacks in three seasons.
The Texans will see the return of TE Ryan Griffin, who has missed the previous two games with an illness. RB D'Onta Foreman will not start practicing until after the bye week, as he continues to rehab from the Achilles injury he suffered last season. WR Keke Coutee is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Though with the acquisition of Thomas, along with a bye following Sunday's game, Houston may sit him out.
S Andre Hal, G Zach Fulton, and LB Brian Peters are all listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
Adding Thomas was a great message sent to the players from the front office. It shows that the Texans are not only willing to fill a need, but also show they are driven to win. Despite the offensive line playing great this past couple of games, it would have been nice to see the Texans get greedy and add a tackle or guard; someone to boost them up front, because outside of playing good defense, the Texans’ fate rests on the health of Watson.
The altitude will be a factor, as it always is, with the visiting team at Denver. But if the Texans are able to keep Watson clean for a third week in a row, along with playing with energy the entire 60 minute, the Texans will have a great chance of entering their well-deserved bye on a six-game winning streak.
*Stats and rankings from ESPN