After an agonizing loss in week one to the Seattle Seahawks that made this week fairly miserable for Broncos fans, it is time to move on. This week, the Broncos return to the friendly confines of Mile High Stadium for their home opener in week two against the Houston Texans.
After entering last week's game with an offseason full of optimism, hype, and good feelings, the Broncos enter week two with the complete opposite. They’re looking to avoid starting 0-2, need to clean up some costly mistakes, and lost several key starters for this game in the last week. So, the Broncos will have to overcome some obstacles to come away with a win today against the Texans.
I am going to give you five things to watch during today’s week two game between the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans.
1. Replacing the injured Broncos
When Broncos fans thought things could not get worse after the Monday Night loss, they found out that star safety Justin Simmons would be going on the injured reserve. He suffered a thigh injury and now will miss at least four weeks for the Broncos. This means that second-year safety Caden Sterns will get the start in his place.
Sterns looked promising during his rookie season, but now fills the big shoes of Justin Simmons for the next month. His first matchup comes up against Davis Mills and the Houston Texans offense. A game the Broncos defense should find success in with or without Simmons in the secondary.
Then, we found out that receiver K.J. Hamler is still dealing with pain from the offseason surgeries he had and will not be playing this weekend. This puts a strain on an already banged-up Broncos receiving unit. In his place, the Broncos are elevating Hall of Famer Kendall Hinton off the practice squad to play a reportedly major role on offense during today’s game.
Kendall Hinton is expected to have major role for Broncos on Sunday after being elevated.— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 17, 2022
I would imagine Hinton will be the Broncos' third receiver and play primarily in the slot for them during today’s game. He has proven he can be a solid option when called on and I think he will prove that once again today.
Finally, second-year guard Quinn Meinerz will miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury and veteran Graham Glasgow will get the start in his place. We saw Glasgow make an error last week that contributed to a fumble at the one-yard line for a second time, so hopefully, he has better results this week.
2. Cleaning up the mistakes
The Broncos should be 1-0, but some costly mistakes and sloppy football are why they are currently 0-1. We saw two fumbles at the one-yard line, 12 penalties for over 100 yards, dropped passes, and mental errors leading
The Broncos played well enough to overcome 12 penalties for 106 yards.— RK (@RyanKoenigsberg) September 13, 2022
They played well enough to overcome a false start that took a TD away.
They played well enough to overcome a fumble on the goal line.
They did not play well enough to overcome TWO fumbles on the goal line.
If the Broncos can clean up these mistakes (and stay healthy) they can be a dangerous football team. However, cleaning all these up in a week is easier said than done and we could see these growing pains continue into week two.
Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett was asked about what he thinks the team needs to improve on from week one. He told reporters that they need to “execute better and finish”,
“I think we just have to execute better and finish. I think we’ve moved on from that. We corrected it, and now we’re on to Houston and excited for this opportunity.”
He states that they have corrected these issues and I hope he is right. This is another VERY winnable game and this time, it’s at home and not against a rather hostile crowd. They won’t have to deal with the noise, they had a humbling week, and a week to watch the film and correct these issues. Hopefully, they did, and they come out and put together a solid game and win easily.
3. Will Russ continue to cook?
If the Broncos are going to win, they will need quarterback Russell Wilson to play as he did during week one. I know he’s getting some hate because he lost to his old team but overall, he played rather well. He had some mistakes with the play clock, but the crowd was insane so that’s understandable.
At the end of the day, Russ finished with 340 yards passing, 1 touchdown, and had a quarterback rating of 101.3. He also completed nearly 70% of his passes and really had no issue moving the ball against the Seahawks' defense. So, hopefully, he can repeat this success and have more success within the red zone.
Russ will be facing a Texans secondary that gave up 352 yards passing and 1 touchdown to Colts quarterback Matt Ryan. So, I think we will see the Broncos' passing game continue to look solid during today’s game vs. the Texans.
4. Which Broncos' defense will we get?
We saw two very different Broncos defenses during their week one game vs. the Seahawks. In the first half, they made quarterback Geno Smith look unstoppable. He completed almost his passes, was rarely pressured, and the Broncos could not tackle. They also made two very big mental mistakes that allowed two touchdown passes to put them in a hole early on.
They just looked rusty, undisciplined and unprepared for the season opener. However, things changed in the second half.
In the first half, the Broncos' defense allowed 17 points and 219 yards.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) September 13, 2022
In the second half, they clamped down, only allowing 34 yards and ZERO points.
Impressive turnaround for the defense.
In the second half, the Broncos' defense came alive. They allowed just 34 total yards and 0 points. We also saw Bradley Chubb sack, Geno Smith, twice and one of those sacks was a strip sack.
It was an awesome turnaround and one that makes you hopeful that the Broncos' defense can continue this dominance throughout an entire game. Veteran safety Kareem Jackson seems confident that the defense will continue to put forth the same effort vs. the Texans.
“I’m very confident in that. I know the group of guys that we have. We have a ton of leaders all the way across the board, so I’m very confident in that. I think that we’ll have a great day today and we’ll continue to build into Sunday
So what changed at halftime? Jackson states that they had communication lapses in the first half and once that was cleaned up, they played much better.
“Just communication. I feel as though in some of the situations, we weren’t on the same page. I feel like everything that they got point-wise, we kind of gave them, whether it was busted assignments or communication and things like that. When we did it the right way, the second half was what it is supposed to look like the entire game. We have to—for us, it’s being positive about that to correct those mistakes and try to put it all together and play a complete game.”
The Texans and quarterback Davis Mills do not have the best offense on paper and one that arguably has even less talent than the Seahawks' offense. So, the Broncos' defense should bounce back and have a solid game overall today. Hopefully, the pass rush continues to be dominant and they can force a few turnovers as well.
5. Red Zone woes
As we know, the Broncos offense had some ugly red zone/goal line woes in week one vs. the Seahawks. You had the two fumbles, dropped passes, a flag calling back a touchdown, penalties pushing them back, and Eric Tomlinson’s toe is one size too big.
They should have scored 30+ points in this one, but they ended up only scoring one touchdown and 16 points in that game. Unacceptable play from the Broncos' offense and something they need to fix moving forward.
I want to see Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams get a chance to redeem themselves today. Ideally, both get red zone carries and a touchdown so we can all move on from the week one disaster. I want to see the Broncos play disciplined football and not hurt themselves with costly penalties and drops in the end zone.
Just get the ball in the end zone. Do it early and often. If we have another game with red zone woes and god-forbid a loss, the hype train will officially be off the rails.
Score Prediction: Broncos 31 - Texans 16