Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans - 7 keys to the game

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

After falling asleep while scouting our next opponent, the three wise men brought me these keys in a dream or vision. When I woke up, I was laughing hysterically. You be the judge.

Offense

1) On the 1st day of Christmas Manning gave to me, a TE against backer Joe Mays.

Here's the deal. When the Texans go to their nickel package like they will have to do against the Broncos, they keep both of their ILB's in the game. Darryl Sharpton and Joe Mays are both mismatched against Julius Thomas, and with the other receiving threats the Broncos will field, if they put a safety bracket to help these guys out, it leaves man free underneath with only one safety to help out. Win. Get these guys moving laterally and vertically down the seam. Big plays waiting to happen.

2) On the 2nd day of Christmas Manning gave to me, Eric Decker as the slot machine.

Expect yet again for the Broncos to play a lot of 11 personnel, and for them to use Bubba Caldwell and Demaryius Thomas on the outside and Eric Decker in the slot. In fact, expect to see Bubba Caldwell some in the slot as well. Slot corner Brice McCain has given up five touchdowns on the season on 56 targets.

3) On the 3rd day of Christmas the Texans gave to me, off coverage from the secondary.

In their latest meeting with the Colts, the Texans chose to play a ton of off man coverage with a cover 2 shell. This protects against the big play and keeps things in front, but it also gives away a ton of cushion and steady gains underneath. The comeback routes, the crossers, outs, and slants will be wide open for the Broncos if they choose this game plan.

4) On the 4th day of Christmas Moreno gave to me, 1000 yards rushing.

In consecutive weeks, the Texans defense has given up an average of 150 yards on the ground. Knowshon is only 61 yards away and with the Broncos wanting to establish some balance heading into the playoffs, he will have plenty of opportunities to reach that milestone. It would mark the first time in his career he has eclipsed 1000 yards.

5) On the 5th day of Christmas Vasquez gave to me, a clean Peyton Manning.

The Texans will move J.J. Watt around with Antonio Smith on the inside. They will also stunt very frequently and try to create some confusion. But for most of the game, it will be upon Louis Vasquez to keep Peyton Manning from facing pressure up the middle. Here's the deal, the Texans are not as talented rushing from the edge. They make their bones from Smith and Watt on the inside along with some aggressive overload blitz calls. Vasquez has the strength and Watt has the speed. This is a matchup to watch.

6) On the 6th day of Christmas Beadles gave to me, a clean Peyton Manning.

Same deal here. Antonio Smith and Watt have combined for 18 sacks on the season with Smith contributing 8 to go along with 34 pressures. He is a disruptive player who can create some issues, Beadles will have to utilize his athleticism to neutralize Smith's speed and quickness.

7) On the 7th day of Christmas the offense gave to me, a good day in the screen game.

Neutralize that push upfront by getting the ball quickly outside to your receivers, neutralize that pass rush by sucking it upfield and hitting the screen behind it. The Broncos may be the best screen team in the league, this is the perfect game to dial them up early and often.

Defense

1) Twas the night before gameday and all through the house, a creature was stirring, Von Miller will rouse!

Guess what folks? Houston Texans have an old Bronco at right tackle. His name? Ryan Harris. Mr. Harris gives up a QB hurry on 10% of his pass blocking snaps. He is an athletic player, but not one that can lock down Von Miller for an entire game. Look for Von to get back in gear with the pass rush. He only has 1 sack in the last three games.

2) Twas the night before gameday, Owen Daniels might be out, with Graham in his place, coverage must me stout.

Garrett Graham has been targeted about 22 times the last couple of games. He is a big target that has made some big plays down the seam. He can also be used to terrorize linebackers on crossing routes underneath and should give Danny Trevathan all he can handle. Not sure if he has done enough to warrant bracket coverage, but he will be someone Matt Schaub will look to often.

3) You're a mean one, Mr. Mince.

This could end up being one hell of a late season acquisition. Jeremy Mincey can step in and play the role vacated by Derek Wolfe. While he is known more as a pass rusher, he is also stout against the run. One thing is for sure, the Broncos could rotate him with Shaun Phillips keeping both fresh and primed for pass rushing duties all game. He should be a good rotational player going forward.

4) He spoke not a word but went straight to work. Champ Bailey's back in the lineup, our secondary won't twerk.

The question shouldn't be is Champ Bailey still an elite shut down corner. The question shouldn't even be can he play the entire game. The question is, when he is in the game, is our secondary better? You should see a lot of Champ in subpackages and at this point, I would say an aging former #1 who's lost a stop is still light years better than Tony Carter, Quentin Jammer, and Kayvon Webster. We have a shutdown corner in DRC, Champ does not need to be on an island anymore. We need better safety play, but I can guarantee you that if he's healthy, Champ will keep our secondary from being bent over like Miley Cyrus at an awards ceremony.

5) He sprang to the sideline, to his team gave a whistle, Del Rio must improve, this defense must gristle.

Enough of allowing teams to march up and down the field. Enough of making guys like Alex Smith look elite. Enough of putting our offense in a position where they MUST score 30-40 points in order for our team to win. Enough shuffling players or trying to send a message. ENOUGH!!!! Put your best lineup out there and coach them to pop someone in their mouths. No more miscommunications in the secondary, no more excuses, just get it done.

6) A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, DRC is on lockdown Andre Johnson is dead.

Let's not kid ourselves. This will be the premiere matchup of the day. Johnson has caught 25 balls the past three weeks for 293 yards but has been held out of the endzone. Whether it be Matt Shaub or Case Keenum, he is the go to man. With that running game on life support due to the absence of both Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the Broncos must take away this weapon in order to shut down the Texans attack. I think DRC is the right person for the job. The past three games he has been targeted 7 times and has given up 2 receptions for 27 yards.

7) Turnovers please

No cute little rhyme here folks. Our defense has done well in recent weeks to give our offense some extra opportunities via the turnover. The Texans and Mr. Pick 6 himself are ripe for opportunities. For a defense to gain some confidence and momentum, forcing some turnovers is paramount. Good habit to have heading into the postseason.

My Predictions

Knowshon Moreno breaks 1000 yards rushing

Peyton Manning breaks 5000 yards passing

Peyton Manning reaches 50 TD passes on the season

Broncos win 34-13

Ho-Ho-Ho Broncos Country, Happy gameday to all, and to all a good time!

GO BRONCOS!!!

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