Old friend Gary Kubiak makes his first return to the Mile High City this Sunday as he brings the Houston Texans to play the Denver Broncos in a match-up of last place AFC teams. He will be accompanied by a few old familiar faces as well. Six other Texans’ coaches have either coached, played or coached and played for the Broncos, including offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and defensive coordinator Frank Bush.
The Texans have a 5-9 record and the Broncos are at 3-11. Both teams have had disappointing seasons coming up short on pre-season expectations. Injuries and bad cruel luck has played their part too. Other similarities between the two; they both have had a season full of mistakes and they are both likely playing for their head coaches future. Jump and see what the Texans bring to the table.
Weather and Conditions
The game is set for the day after Christmas @ Invesco Field at Mile High with a 2:05 pm MST kickoff. CBS has the national broadcast. Don Criqui will call the play-by-play and Steve Beuerlein will be doing the color commentary. To view the NFL Broadcast map, go here.
The weather forecast for Sunday's game calls for
|Precip: 10% Spectator Index: 8|
Wind Impact: LIGHT
For the latest up to date conditions, go here.
Injuries and external factors
The Texans have sent 14 players to the Injured Reserve List. Among them are starters DE Mario Williams, LB DeMeco Ryans, DE Connor Barwin, LB Darnell Bing and RG Mike Brisiel. Rookies RB Ben Tate, WR Trindon Holliday and S Torrie Williams haven't had a chance to develop either. DT Tim Bulman, DE Jesse Nading, WR Andre' Davis, S Dominique Barber, CB Karl Paymah and PR/WR David Anderson also made the Injured Reserve List. That alone pretty much sums up the low ranking numbers for the Texans Defense.
For this week, TE Garrett Graham is the only player that is definitely out. LB Brian Cushing, who missed the first four games of the season after violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, was limited in practice Thursday with a sore foot. He will be probable for the game.
WR Andre Johnson has missed practice this week to rest his sprained right ankle. He will be a game time decision. Johnson has been injured since Week 2, but he has played in every game except for the Texans' Week 4 trip to Oakland.
Kicker Neil Rackers is resting his Right Hamstring and has not practiced this week. He played last week against the Titans and made a 37-yard field goal, 2 extra points and kicked off 3 times right around his seasonal average. Expect him to play.
Offense is ranked 10th in points (23.8), 5th in Total yards (377.7), 5th in Passing yards (255.8) and 11th in Rushing with 121.9 yards per game. They are 42.2% (73/173) on 3rd down conversions and have allowed 32 Sacks. On 4th downs, Houston has a 50.0% (9/18) success rate.
They are (-2) in Turning the ball over.
Houston's Quarterbacks are Matt Schaub, Dan Orlovsky and Matt Leinart. Schaub's numbers: 324/519 for 3807 yards, a 62.4 Completion rate, 22 TD's, 11 INT's and a 90.0 QB rating. He has also fumbled 8 times, losing 3 of them. Orlovsky has made one appearance and Leinart hasn't seen the field this year.
The Running Back's are workhorse Arian Foster (277 carries for 1345 yds, a 4.9 avg, 13 TD's, 3 Fumbles, 2 Lost and 60 rec, 550 yds and 2 TD's), Derrick Ward (45 car,249 yds, 5.5 avg, 3 TD's and 5 rec, 44 yds ) and Steve Slaton (19 car, 93 yds and a 4.9 avg. and 3 rec, 11 yds). Fullback Vonta Leach (8 Rec, 91 yds) is the lead blocker for Arian Foster.
The Texans Wide Receiving crew is anchored by Andre Johnson (86 rec, 1216 yds, a 14.1 avg, 1 FUM and 8 TD's) and Kevin Walter (47 rec, 553 yds, an 11.8 avg. and 5 TD's). Jacoby Jones (41 rec, 377 yds, 3 TD's) is the 3rd man and Rookie's Dorin Dickerson and Derrick Townsel complete this unit. Townsel was recently activated from the practice squad to take David Anderson’s place on the roster.
The Tight Ends are Owen Daniels (25 rec, 336 yds, a 13.4 avg.), Joel Dreessen (31 rec, 435 yds, a 14.0 avg. and 4 TD's), James Casey (7 rec, 77 yds), Anthony Hill and Garrett Graham.
Houston's starting Offensive Line is made up of LT Duane Brown, LG Wade Smith, C Chris Myers, RG Antoine Caldwell and RT Eric Winston. Caldwell is a new starter, replacing Mike Brisiel, who was placed on the IR recently. Kasey Studdard and Rookie Shelley Smith are the backup Guards and Rashad Butler is the 2nd stringer at Tackle.
Defensively, the Texans rank 30th in points against (27.6), 30th in Total yards against (377.0), 32nd in Pass Defense (275.1) and 9th against the run (101.9). They have 27 Sacks and allow opponents a 40.8% (71/174) conversion rate on 3rd down. On 4th downs, they are allowing a 80% (8/10) conversion rate.
Houston runs a 4-3 Base Defense. The starting Linemen are LDE Antonio Smith (22 TKL, 11 AST, 4.0 SK, 2 PD and 1 FF), LDT Shaun Cody (18 TKL, 16 AST), RDT Amobi Okoye (23 TKL, 14 AST, 2.0 SK) and RDE Mark Anderson (13 TKL, 2 AST, 4.0 SK and 2 PD), who is replacing Mario Williams (22 TKL, 6 AST, 9.0 SK, 2 PD and 1 FF). Recent acquisition Jarvis Green will be available for the game Sunday and will be in the rotation. Rookie Earl Mitchell (17 TKL, 9 AST and 1 SK), Tim Jamison (8 TKL, 3 AST), Damione Lewis (8 TKL, 3 AST and 1 SK) and DeMario Pressley fill in as needed. Jamison will come off the bench on the right side when Antonio Smith moves inside in passing situations.
The Linebacking Corp has Brian Cushing (47 TKL, 19 AST, 1.5 SK, 1 FF and 4 PD) on the left side, Zac Diles (56 TKL, 21 AST) on the right and Kevin Bentley (31 TKL, 17 AST, 1 PD and 1 INT) in the middle.
Xavier Adibi (9 TKL, 3 AST) and Stanford Keglar are the backups on the outside, while Rookie Darryl Sharpton (19 TKL, 10 AST, 1 SK) backs up Bentley.
At Cornerback, the starters are Glover Quin (59 TKL, 13 AST, 14 PD, and 3 INT's) and Rookie Kareem Jackson (52 TKL, 13 AST, 9 PD and 2 INT's). Brice McCain (20 TKL, 5 AST and 2 PD), Jason Allen (20 TKL, 2 AST, 1 PD and 2 INT), Rookie Sherrick McManis (7 TKL, 4 AST, 1 PD, 1 INT) and Antwaun Molden make up the rest.
The Texans leading tackler is starting Strong Safety Bernard Pollard (75 TKL, 29 AST, 2.5 SK, 3 FF and 5 PD). Eugene Wilson (35 TKL, 11 AST and 3 PD) is the starter at Free Safety. Quintin Demps and Troy Nolan (24 TKL,9 AST, 4 PD and 1 INT) are the back ups.
Houston's Kicker is Neil Rackers. Neil is 22 for 25 (80%) with a long of 53 yards. He has been a perfect 16 for 16 inside the 40 and has converted all 27 PAT attempts. He has kicked off 74 times and his KO's land around the 5 yard line on average. He has 8 touchbacks and 65 have been returned an average of 24.2 yards.Baltimore Ravens return man David Reed ran one back 103 yards for a TD in week 14. Rackers is 1 for 2 in successful Onside kicks. There have also been 2 Kickoffs returned for TD's on the kick coverage unit called back because of holding calls by their opponents.
The Punter and Holder is Matt Turk. Matt has punted 56 times this year for an average of 42.2 yards per punt. His Net average is 36.7. He has placed 17 punts inside the 20 yard line with 5 touchbacks and 13 called for a Fair Catch. The coverage unit has downed 9 punts and opponents have returned 26 of Turk's punts an average of 8.1 yards. He isn't the longest punter, but he has a consistent Hang Time.
The Long Snapper is Jon Weeks, a 1st year Undrafted Free Agent out of Baylor.
The Texans Kick Returners are Steve Slaton (32 KR's, 617 yds, a 19.3 avg, 50 Long), Jacoby Jones (23 KR's, 494 yds, a 21.5 avg, 35 Long) and Sherrick McManis (1 KR, 25 yds).
The Punt Returners are Jacoby Jones and David Anderson. Jones has been the main guy, returning 24 punts an average of 6.8 yards with a long of 39 and calling for 14 Fair catches. Anderson has returned 4 punts and average of 6.5 yards.
Key coverage men on the Texans Special Teams and their Tackle numbers are Sherrick McManis (8.5 and a downed punt), Troy Nolan (8.5), Darryl Sharpton (8), James Casey (7), Vonta Leach (6), Joel Dreessen (5 and a downed punt), Antuan Molden (4), Stanford Keglar (3 and 2 downed punts) and Neil Rackers with 3.
THE SEASON SO FAR
The Texans started 4-2 and have lost seven of their last eight games. The five wins came against Indianapolis, Washington, Oakland, Kansas City and Tennessee. Their losses have come at the hands of Dallas, the Giants, the Colts, San Diego, Jacksonville, the Jets, Eagles, Ravens and mostly recently the Titans. Along the way the league's leading rusher, RB Arian Foster, has racked up seven 100-yard games. Foster (1,345 yards rushing) and receiver Andre Johnson (1,216 receiving) have combined for more yards than any duo in the NFL. Foster has more catches (19) and yards (212) on 3rd-down than other any Running back in the league this year.
Houston began the season with a home victory against the Indianapolis Colts, only their second win ever over Peyton Manning's team. In Week 2, they traveled to FedEx Field in Maryland to play the Washington Redskins. Matt Schaub completed 38 of 52 passes for 497 yards, 3 TD's and 1 INT. A 35 yard field goal by Neil Rackers, gave the Texans their first overtime victory in history. The Texans hosted their in-state rival Cowboys at home for bragging rights in Week 3. Houston took the early lead in the 1st quarter on a Rackers 24-yard field goal, but never really got started. This game was the Marion Barber and Tony Romo show. Romo found Roy E. Williams on a 63-yard TD pass that broke the game open 27-6.The Texans would finally score late when Schaub and Kevin Walter hooked up on a 7-yard TD pass. Arian Foster was the lone bright spot with 106 yards rushing. Week 4 brought on a trip to Oakland for a duel with the Raiders. Arian Foster returned from an early game benching to score on a 74-yard run and an 10-yard catch, taking over the game in the 2nd half to lead Houston to a 31-24 rout over Oakland. Troy Nolan's two INT's help seal the victory as well.
After their win over the Raiders, the Texans played host to the Giants in Week 5. Eli Manning threw three TD passes, two to Hakeem Nicks as the New York Giants ran away with a 34-10 romp. Houston was held to 24 net rushing yards for the game. The Giants led 24-3 at the half and the Texans had only 74 total yards at the break. Matt Schaub threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson with 28 seconds left, giving the Texans a stunning 4th-quarter comeback in their 35-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6. Matt Cassel threw 3 TD's for KC and Thomas Jones ran for 100 yards and a score in a game without turnovers. Houston's shaky defense gave up 228 yards rushing, but even worse, the leader of their defense, All-Pro MLB DeMeco Ryans, went down late in the 1st half with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
After their bye week the Texans traveled up to Indy for a rematch with the Colts in Week 8. Peyton Manning threw two TD's and Mike Hart ran for a career-high 84 yards and the Colts earned a season split with a 30-17 victory over the Texans. In what has been a recurring theme for the Texans, by halftime they were losing 17-3 and had to play catch up football. Indy's defense constantly pressured Matt Schaub and forced him into a series of mistakes including a pick six interception. In Week 9, the Chargers came to town. They left with a win. Philip Rivers threw 4 TD passes against the NFL's worst pass defense as San Diego beat the Texans 29-23. It started fine, but didn't finish well for Houston. The Texans deflected Mike Scifres' punt, and then recovered at the Chargers 8, Arian Foster scored on the next snap. Foster had 127 yards and 2 TD's on the ground. The Texans had a chance to go ahead in the final minutes, but Andre Johnson couldn't handle Matt Schaub's pass, and the ball ricocheted off his knee and into the hands of safety Paul Oliver.The Chargers were without the services of Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson.
The Texans' Week 10 match was against their division rival Jaguars at EverBank Field. In a game that appeared to be going into overtime, Jacksonville WR Mike Thomas caught a 50-yard TD pass from David Garrard that Texans DB Glover Quin batted into his hands on the final play of regulation, giving the Jacksonville Jaguars a 31-24. The Texans fell victim to a last minute play for the third consecutive game in Week 11 against the Jets at the Meadowlands. Santonio Holmes caught a 6-yard TD pass with 10 seconds left, lifting the New York Jets to a stunning 30-27 comeback victory over the Texans. Arian Foster had 84 yards rushing and two touchdown runs and had a 16-point lead in the 4th quarter. They led 27-23 with less than a minute left. But Mark Sanchez completed two passes to LaDainian Tomlinson and then had a nice 42-yard throw to Braylon Edwards with 16 seconds remaining to set up the winning play. A 20-0 shutout of the Titans in Week 12 brought an end to a 4-game losing streak and gave the Texans their 5th win of the season. Arian Foster rushed for 143 yards and caught nine passes for Houston. Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan ejected for fighting midway through the 4th quarter.
The Texans flew to Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13 to play the Eagles and ran into a red-hot Michael Vick. The Eagle's QB threw for 302 yards and accounted for three TD's, rallying the Eagles to a 34-24 victory over the Houston Texans in a Thursday night game. The Texans were down 20-10 at halftime but took the lead in the 3rd quarter when Arian Foster caught a 13-yard TD pass from Schaub and ran 3-yards for another score. Philly put the next 14 points on the board on Vick's 2-yard TD run, followed by his 5-yard TD pass to Owen Schmitt. Houston tried to rally, but the Eagles' defense held fast.
In Week 14, the Texans returned home for a Monday night duel with the Ravens that took overtime to resolve. Baltimore CB Josh Wilson intercepted Matt Schaub's pass and returned it 12 yards for a TD in the extra period, leading the Ravens to a 34-28 win over the Texans. The Ravens jumped out to a 21-point lead on Willis McGahee's 1-yard TD run and 2 TD catch by Derrick Mason. Andre Johnson 46 yard pass from Matt Schaub closed out the 1st half. Baltimore rookie David Reed returned the 2nd-half kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown, but Houston did not have a problem. The Texans tied the game with 27 ticks remaining on Schaub's 5-yard TD pass to Andre Johnson followed by a two-point conversion pass to Jacoby Jones to force overtime. With the loss, Houston became the 1st team in NFL history to have 4 games where they have come back to either tie or take the lead, only to end up losing the game.
LAST WEEK the Texans flew to LP Field for a divisional rematch against the Titans. Tennessee took revenge on the Texans 20-0 shutout in their previous meeting by beating the Houston Texans 31-17 on Sunday. Kerry Collins threw for 2 TD's and Chris Johnson ran for a TD and 130 yards as the Titans jumped out to a 21-point lead on their first three drives and never looked back. The Texans got a 12-yard TD reception from Andre Johnson in the third quarter and a 4-yard TD catch in the 4th, but it wasn't enough as the Titans put the game away with Javon Ringer's 7-yard TD run. Houston was never really were in this game. The Titans held the NFL's leading rusher, Arian Foster to a season-low 15 yards on 11 carries.
This will be simple. These two teams have met twice before. The Broncos won at home 31-13 on November 7, 2004 and the Texans won in Houston 31-13 on December 13, 2007. I suppose that means it's the Broncos turn to win.
Gary Kubiak has a 1-0 record over his former team.
Las Vegas odds favor Houston by 3 points.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Broncos will have to contend with Arian Foster first. Champ Bailey will lock down Andre Johnson, but that still leaves Kevin Walter and TE Owen Daniels for Matt Schaub to throw to. Pressuring the quarterback has been a rarity for the Broncos this season. Houston has been outscored 96-36 in the 1st quarter this season while the Broncos have only been outscored 78-62 in the same category. The Texans have been a better 2nd half team, and have taken games down to the wire on a regular basis. The Broncos just seem to fade as the game goes on. For Denver, Tim Tebow gets his second career start and a chance for his first win as a pro. If the game plan allows him to throw the ball against the 32nd ranked pass defense, it should be an exciting game to watch. I'll say it right here. The team with the least amount of mistakes wins this game.