The Houston Texans (2-0) head to Mile High to take on the Denver Broncos (1-1) in a game that will help establish the AFC pecking order. Both of these teams are playoff contenders but through two weeks, only one has asserted itself as a Super Bowl threat.
The Broncos have the opportunity to show both squads are in the mix.
Peyton Manning and his teammates attempted to overcome a four-turnover performance in the first quarter of Monday night’s game, but came up just short against the Atlanta Falcons. They’ll have the huge advantage of playing at home, where they shut down the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier in the season.
Houston hasn’t had a real test thus far, but pulled out impressive 20-point wins against the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars. They’ve shown they can dominate lesser teams in the AFC; now it is time to prove they can win against a good team in a hostile environment.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
When: September 23, 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Texans -2 (via Odds Shark)
Moneyline: Houston -130
The four sports books featured on Odds Shark aren’t exactly on the same page with this game. While they are all picking the Texans to win, the spread varies from -1 to -3. Two of the lines are riding at -2.
The over/under has a similar story. TopBet is a full point above 5dimes and sportsbook.com at 45.5 points.
This game is all about how one feels about Peyton Manning. Denver’s new QB1 began the season with two touchdown passes and eclipsed a passer rating of 129. Bettors who believe that is the real Manning in 2012, will lean towards the Broncos and the over.
However, the Week 2 version struggled to get velocity on his passes and made some odd decisions to post a 58.5 quarterback rating. That player won’t be enough to lead his team to their second win of the season.
Manning assured fans he is healthy per a CBSSports.com game summary.
"Really, three poor decisions, three throws into coverage. Each turnover has its own story that no one really wants to hear. I've just got to take care of the ball better."
Denver’s defense isn’t great, but they are good enough to give Manning an opportunity to win. This team will live and die based on the quality of play they get from the quarterback, which makes them a risky bet this early in the season.
Houston has great balance on both sides of the ball. They can run the ball on almost any team, and Matt Schaub is giving fans reason to wonder what might have been, if the quarterback hadn’t missed almost all of the season and the playoffs in 2011.
Denver has been stout against the run to start the 2012 season. It will be interesting to see how Arian Foster and Ben Tate fare. Regardless of their production, Schaub will likely look to throw early in this game. Denver has surrendered some yards through the air and Andre Johnson is looking to rebound from his quiet game last weekend.
The Texans should be able to move the ball fairly well on Denver. This will put pressure on Manning and Willis McGahee to keep pace.
This game could very well come down to turnovers. Houston has taken good care of the ball and has created five turnovers in the first two games. A repeat performance could propel them to their first 3-0 start in franchise history.
To get there, the Texans will need to protect Schaub from a potent Denver pass rush. Right tackle Derek Newton is making just his third NFL start and he could be punished by Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.
Houston will likely need to dedicate a tight end or fullback to help in blocking schemes.
ESPN.com has the Texans in a landslide. One of their two computer programs have taken Houston along with 10 of 12 writers.
The fan vote on CBS.com has 54 percent taking the Texans straight up. Five of their writers and their prediction machine agree, compared to just three columnists taking Denver.
Houston is proven and the Broncos aren’t. Manning may have some home-field heroics in him, but at this point I’ve got to take the more consistent team.
Houston 24, Denver 20