The Denver Broncos will go head-to-head against the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are 6-5 and in the middle of the AFC’s playoff race. The winner will see their chances at making the postseason skyrocket, while the loser will lose significant ground toward earning a potential berth.
The Texans have a good team. Led by DeMeco Ryans and dazzling first-round quarterback C.J. Stroud, they are a much improved unit compared to years past and will be a formidable foe for the Broncos to attempt to defeat on the road. Let’s take a deeper look at the Texans, who to watch for, and what Denver can do to achieve a win on Sunday.
2022 Houston Texans Review
Last season the Texans finished dead last in the AFC South with a 3-13-1 record. Their offensive performance was dreadful, ranking 30th in points scored and 31 in total yards. Defensively things weren’t much better, ranking 27th in points allowed and 30th in yardage allowed. This season they are much better and have a Top 10 ranked offense in points and yards, while also improving demonstrably on defense ranking 14th in points allowed and 22 in yards.
2023 Offseason Moves and Acquisitions
The Texans were very active this past offseason. A new coaching regime means a lot of change, and they made a lot of splashes in free agency (due to having a lot of cap space) and were very aggressive acquiring talent in the NFL Draft.
In the draft, they were able to get Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud at #2 overall and ended up trading up to #3 overall to select Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson, Jr. Both of them have been key players for the Texans this season and are definitely franchise cornerstones on their side of the ball.
Additionally, third-round pick Tank Dell has been terrific as a rookie and one of the best receivers in the NFL. In ten games, he has 47 catches for 709 yards and 7 touchdowns. The local product (from Houston) appears to be a draft day steal early on as a rookie and is cementing himself as one of the league’s best playmakers at the position. All things considered, the Texans have a really bright future.
The Texans Offensive X-Factor: C.J. Stroud, QB
It’s quite common place for rookie quarterbacks to struggle early on in their careers. Heck, even Peyton Manning had a rough go of it as a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts before embarking on one of the best Hall of Fame careers of any signal caller in the history of the NFL. I would have thought Stroud would experience similar issues, just like any other rookie, but he has been lights out virtually all season long. I bet the Carolina Panthers are kicking themselves after passing him up for Bryce Young.
To date, he has thrown for 3,266 yards, 19 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and is sporting a 63.7-percent completion rate. That’s quite impressive, especially considering their offensive line has struggled in pass protection and have allowed 26 sacks already on the season. It’s quite clear that he has a special connection with aforementioned Dell, who has dazzled as a rookie receiver and is Stroud’s favorite target in the passing attack.
Stroud has the capability to work all levels of the field: short, intermediate, and long and he is no slouch at carving up the middle of defenses either. He leads the league in explosive plays (completions over 20+ yards or more) and that is something the Broncos cannot let happen in order to win. He will present a large test for Denver’s defense, who has been on an absolute tear over their five-game winning streak. Tight end Dalton Schultz, one of Stroud’s favorite targets, has been ruled out for Sunday’s game—so Vance Joseph and company have one less weapon to worry about in their passing game.
#Texans QB C.J. Stroud has 54 completions of 20+ yards this season — the most in the #NFL, per @IE_NFL.— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) November 27, 2023
Has the Ohio State product locked up Offensive Rookie of the Year?#WeAreTexans
The Texans Offensive X-Factor: Jonathan Greenard, DE
One of the biggest surprises for the Texans on defense this year has been fourth-year pro and former third-round pick Jonathan Greenard. 11 games this season, he has 36 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits, and 7 sacks. That’d be quality production for an entire year’s worth of play, but he still has six more games to go to notch double-digit sacks for the first time in his career.
Houston’s front-four is quite formidable with Will Anderson, Jr., Maliek Collins, and Sheldon Rankins. Their ability to take on double teams has led to a lot of one-on-one opportunities for Greenard from the defensive end position. Most certainly, he has taken advantage of that and is on track for the best season of his young career.
Denver’s offensive line has looked great the past few weeks going up against premier pass rushers Danielle Hunter and Myles Garrett. They will have their hands full with Greenard and the rest of the aforementioned defensive lineman in their four-man front. In order to come out of Houston with a victory, keeping Greenard and company at bay will be of the utmost importance. This trench battle is one all of Broncos Country will want to keep an eye on Sunday.
“This is playoff ball, honestly, now,” said Texans DE Jonathan Greenard. “Denver is a team that is definitely on the same pace that we are, same record and everything. We are fighting for that spot for a chance to get into the dance [Playoffs].” #Texans #Sarge @TheTexansWire pic.twitter.com/q5p3OzvW0n— #SARGE (@BigSargeSportz) November 30, 2023
Can the Broncos secure a sixth victory in a row?
Of course they can and I believe they will. This might be their most important game of the entire year with profound playoff implications depending on how it goes. It’s a must-win game for the Broncos, who can’t afford to fall behind in the race for a wildcard playoff spot.
The Texans are 6-5, but I believe are better than their record indicates. This won’t be an easy game by any means and the Broncos will have to bring their “A” game on both sides of the ball to come out with a victory. All things considered, if the Broncos are able to force some turnovers on defense (Stroud has thrown four interceptions in the past three games) and capitalize on them offensively—they will have a good shot at winning the game.
Sean Payton will have to be dialed in offensively to go up against the great defensive mind of DeMeco Ryans. I’m excited for this coaching battle. Expect another healthy dose of Denver’s rushing attack to wear down Houston’s ferocious front seven to help set up the play-action passing game for Russell Wilson. I’ve got the Broncos coming out with a victory 24-20 to move to 7-5 on the season.