The Texans have looked dominant on their way to a 2-0 record but both wins came over teams that were simply over matched by the Texans deep and talented roster. They've won both games by 20 points, but in college football terms, they've beat Wyoming and New Mexico so far. This week the Texans travel to Denver to take on a fellow ranked team to continue the college football analogy.
Things To Watch For This Sunday:
Broncos Pass Rush - The Broncos defense is built a bit like the old Colts defenses that Manning played with while in Indianapolis. Their built more on speed than strength and are at their best rushing the passer over trying to stuff the run. The Colts defenses were always weak against the run, but if Manning put up 17 quick points and the opposing offense could no longer run the ball, then Freeney and Mathis could pin their ears back and cause havoc. Factor in crowd noise making it hard for opposing offensive tackles to hear the snap count and it can cause the tackles to get out of their stance late giving the pass rusher a head start to the quarterback. I'm not worried about Duane Brown, he's a veteran and capable of holding his own against either Elvis Dumervil or Von Miller, but it'll be right tackle Derek Newton's first start in a hostile environment (the Jaguars stadium is a library compared to Mile High). They'll need to give him help on obvious pass downs with a back or tight end staying in to block on his side.
The Texans should also work in a few draws and screen plays early on to put that in the Broncos mind and hopefully slow down their aggressiveness. All this being said, the most effective defense against their pass rush is a great running game. The Texans should look to establish the run early against a Broncos rush defense that gave up 126 rushing yards per game last year which ranked 22nd in the league, including 146.6 rushing yards allowed per game over their final six games. I'd like to see the Texans run right at the undersized Dumervil and Miller and hopefully tire them out. The Texans do a great job of making their pass plays look like their run plays before the snap which is a part of why their play-action passing game is so deadly and should slow down the Broncos pass rush, if they're having to think and read the play instead of pinning their ears back.
Texans Defense Vs. Peyton Manning - The veteran quarterback and future Hall of Famer looked great against the Steelers leading many to believe that he was back to the Manning of old. However, on Monday the Falcons disguised their defensive looks, confused Manning, and forced him into three interceptions. Which Manning will the Texans see this Sunday? Hard to tell, but I'd guess something in between. His good performance in week one came against a defense with strong name recognition, but the Steelers were missing a couple of starters and even the guys who made it on the field are a step or two slower than they were in years past. On Monday he saw an improved Falcons defense under new coordinator Mike Nolan, but they were missing their best cornerback (Brent Grimes) off a team that finished 20th in the league last season both in passing yards allowed and passing touchdowns allowed. My point, neither defense he's faced so far is as good as the Texans defense he'll face this week. His wide receiver group isn't bad, but their not close to the level that he had in Indianapolis and the Texans secondary can handle them.
The Texans ranked third in passing yards allowed last season and are currently ranked first for this season. Manning has had a lot of success against the Texans in the past, but he's never faced a Texans defense with Wade Phillips as the coordinator and guys like J.J. Watt, Johnathan Joseph, or Brooks Reed on the field. Manning has struggled against 3-4 defenses like the Texans in the past including a game against the Chargers in 2005 when he completed just 57% of his passes and threw one touchdown and two interceptions; his last game against a Wade Phillips coached team.