Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans: Broncos' Preseason Week 3 Game Preview

Travis WakemanFeatured Columnist IVAugust 23, 2014

Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans: Broncos' Preseason Week 3 Game Preview

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Denver Broncos will return home Saturday night to battle the Houston Texans. The Broncos will be playing fresh off their 34-point drubbing of San Francisco on the road.

    The Broncos and Texans had some joint practices during the week, and this game should be a good test for both teams.

    Still, they are two teams going in opposite directions.

    The Texans are a team in rebuilding mode with journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. On the other hand, the Broncos are ready to make good on what they couldn't accomplish last season, looking to return to the Super Bowl and getting the victory this time.

    In two preseason games, the Broncos have outscored their competition 55-16. Their two opponents happen to be the two teams that played in the NFC Championship Game last season.

    Yes, it is only preseason, but there is no denying how good this Denver offense looks. Shockingly, it could be even better than it was last season when the team broke several NFL records.

    Against Houston, the Broncos will face a team with some of the most talented players in the league on defense. It will be a good challenge for Peyton Manning and his offense to get a rhythm going against them.

    With it being the third preseason game, long considered the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season, both teams will want to play at their top level.

    That makes things so much more interesting, preseason game or not.

    Here, we have a full preview of this game including injuries, matchups to watch and predictions. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.

Broncos' Preseason Week 2 Recap

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    In the first football game ever played at Levi's Stadium, the Broncos dominated the San Francisco 49ers in every phase of the game.

    Showing great roster depth, the Broncos shutout the 49ers by a score of 34-0.

    Both Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert played well in relief of Peyton Manning. Osweiler threw a pretty 33-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer in the third quarter.

    The Broncos had 357 yards of total offense and didn't turn the ball over once while creating four turnovers of their own. There wasn't much to be disappointed about if you're a Broncos fan.

    If there was a blemish in their 34-point victory, it appears the Broncos can tighten up on kickoff coverage. The 49ers were able to find some holes in the return game and nearly broke a couple returns for huge gains.

    Still looking for strong contribution from its special teams, the team has an area to focus on when it plays Houston on Saturday night.

News and Notes

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    ED ZURGA/Associated Press

    Who Will Be the Team's Punt Returner?

    If there is one hole on the Denver roster, it is punt returner.

    With Trindon Holliday moving on in free agency, the Broncos were likely hoping to find their new return man early on in training camp. Of all people, Jordan Norwood stepped up and performed the best.

    But unfortunately for Norwood, his 2014 season is already over. It's devastating news for Norwood, who was out of the NFL last season.

    Jordan Norwood suffered a torn left ACL.. Tough break. Was front runner to make team as punt returner and sixth receiver. #Broncos

    — Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 20, 2014

    For the Broncos, they must now find a reliable punt returner. Undrafted rookie Isaiah Burse should be given plenty of chances to be the return man now that Norwood is out of the picture.

    Unless Burse can prove he's worthy of a roster spot, the Broncos may be forced to turn to Wes Welker to handle punt return duties.

    During the preseason, Norwood had two punt returns for 37 yards. Burse has also had two chances to return punts, gaining just 12 yards.

     

     19-0

    Now working as an NFL analyst for CBS, Tony Gonzalez has already made a bold prediction for the 2014 season—the Denver Broncos will go undefeated.

    In a recent interview with Bob Glauber of Newsday, Gonzalez, the former Kansas City and Atlanta tight end, cited Peyton Manning's command of the offense and the defensive additions through free agency as the reasons he thinks the Broncos will achieve a 19-0 record.

    A perfect record hasn't been done since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, and the Broncos have a difficult schedule this season, having to face the NFC West. That includes a trip to Seattle to meet the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 3.

    However, if the way the team has looked in preseason is any indication, Mercury Morris and the rest of those '72 Dolphins may have reason to be nervous.

     

    Denver Broncos Fans Rank Second

    In a recent study conducted by Forbes, fans of the Denver Broncos are among the best in the NFL. In fact, only the fans in Green Bay were ranked higher.

    This study included things like television ratings, stadium attendance and merchandise sales. This is a very big honor for Broncos fans, who have helped make Denver one of the toughest places for opponents to come in and get a victory.

    Additionally, there's no shame in being ranked No. 2 behind Green Bay.

    In the same study, 84 percent of Green Bay residents consider themselves a fan of the Packers. They are also the only team that is owned by its fanbase.

    Still, the fans of Denver would have to be a very close second.

Injury Report

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    Chris Schneider/Associated Press

    According to milehighreport.com, the following players are listed on the Broncos' injur report heading into Saturday night's game:

     

    Jordan Norwood, Wide Receiver- Out

    Danny Trevathan, Linebacker- Out

    Chris Harris, Cornerback- Out

    Montee Ball, Running Back- Questionable

    Chase Vaughn, Defensive End- Questionable

    Jamar Chaney, Linebacker- Questionable

    Jameson Konz, Tight End- Questionable

    Kayvon Webster, Cornerback- Questionable

    Virgil Green, Tight End- Questionable

    Von Miller, Linebacker- Questionable

    Wes Welker, Wide Receiver- Questionable

    Emmanuel Sanders, Wide Receiver- Probable

     

    The Broncos could potentially be without several key pieces of their team Saturday, but aside from Norwood's injury, nothing seems too serious.

    #broncos star Von Miller says would like to play in preseason but not necessary @TroyRenck http://t.co/0ftU939cQ9

    — Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 19, 2014

    Chris Harris and Von Miller are both preparing to play in the season opener, and while Miller could play in the preseason, it seems unlikely that he will before Week 1.

    #broncos Emmanuel Sanders out was expected. He said plan was to proceed cautiously.Wants to be healthy for season, not create nagging injury

    — Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 19, 2014

    Montee Ball was cleared to practice following his recovery from an appendectomy, but he will probably sit out Saturday.

    The encouraging news is that Emmanuel Sanders could make his debut in Denver. Many fans are anxious to see him get out on the field, and he needs to get his timing down with the offense. 

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Broncos' Pass Protection vs. Jadeveon Clowney

    Jadeveon Clowney may be an unproven rookie, but the Atlanta Falcons have already seen firsthand what he is can do.

    Clowney had to leave the joint practice with the Broncos this week after a collision with backup tight end Jacob Tamme, but the injury doesn't appear serious, and he should play Saturday night.

    Clowney is a freakish athlete who can have a huge impact on a football game. The Broncos need to be aware of him on every play, prepared to keep him away from Peyton Manning. They don't want their star quarterback taking any big shots from this guy.

     

    Aqib Talib vs. Andre Johnson

    Aqib Talib was beaten badly on a play against San Francisco last Sunday in which Brandon Lloyd ran right by him and would have had a touchdown if the ball wasn't overthrown.

    On Saturday night, he'll get a chance to face one of the league's best wide receivers, Andre Johnson.

    Johnson is still trying to create chemistry with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Talib could throw that off.

    Denver signed Talib specifically to face guys like Johnson, so it would be a big victory for the Broncos if Talib gets the better of this matchup.

     

    Broncos' Offensive Line vs. J.J. Watt

    According to Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, things got a little out of control between some Denver offensive linemen and Houston defensive end J.J. Watt during the joint practice held between the two teams.

    "You don't normally fight when you win the rep. I have no interest in fighting someone when I beat you. ... That's why I don't normally get into fights. When you hit me, I don't feel a need to hit back. You can turn on the film, see what happened," Watt went on to say.

    On Saturday night, the Broncos will get another shot at Watt, and you can bet they'll come at him the same way. With the entire Denver team focused on being more physical this season, what better way to impose your will than with Watt?

    Good luck with that.

     

    X-Factor Player of the Week- Emmanuel Sanders

    Providing he plays, it's time for Emmanuel Sanders to make his presence known in Denver.

    Manning will want to get something going with his new receiver before the season starts, so look for Sanders to be involved early and often in the passing game.

    Some fans in Denver may be worried about his lingering injuries, but Sanders will show that it's nothing serious as soon as he steps on the field for the first time.

Prediction

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    This is the third preseason game, which is generally the game teams keep their starters in the longest. Thus, it will be the closest thing we see to a regular game before the season starts.

    The biggest challenge for Denver in this game will be protecting against Houston's two-headed monster of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

    The Texans just don't have enough firepower on offense to keep up with the Broncos, so if the Texans have any chance to win, they'll have to get some big plays from the defense.

    The Broncos, on the other hand, seem to be on a mission this preseason, already getting big wins over Seattle and San Francisco.

    There's no reason to believe Denver won't roll the Texans right out of town, and they should win this game handily.

     

    Prediction: Broncos 31, Texans 10