HOUSTON - After losing their first home game of the season last week, the Denver Broncos (11-3) hit the road for their last two regular-season games. First up is a matchup with the Houston Texans (2-12).
With a win and help, the Broncos could clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Texans on the other hand are looking to snap their current 12-game losing streak.
Here are five matchups to watch for in the game.
Peyton Manning vs Johnathan Joseph
With three touchdowns, Peyton Manning would tie Tom Brady’s record for the most touchdowns thrown in a single season at 50. Manning will attempt to set the record against the Texans second-ranked pass defense. Manning is 16-3 all-time against the Texans. Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph has two interceptions in the last three games.
Champ Bailey vs Andre Johnson
Champ Bailey told reporters that he would be back this week. Because of a nagging foot injury, Bailey has only played in three games and hasn’t seen any action since the Broncos 35-28 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. He will be covering Texans receiver Andre Johnson who comes into the game ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,295 receiving yards.
Chris Clark vs J.J. Watt
Left tackle Chris Clark will have his hands full against last year’s defensive player of the year, J.J. Watt. Watt will be looking for his first sack in the last three games. He has 9.5 sacks on the season.
Shaun Phillips vs Matt Schaub
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub came into the year as the starter, but he was benched for Case Keenum due to his poor play. Keenum’s recent thumb injury has Schaub back under the center for the Texans. Schaub threw four touchdowns against the Broncos last season. Broncos defensive end Shaun Phillips needs two sacks to outdo career high of 11.5 in 2006.
Terrance Knighton vs Dennis Johnson
With running backs Adrian Foster and Ben Tate out for the season due to injuries, the Texans will start undrafted rookie Dennis Johnson. The Broncos were manhandled last week giving up 177 rushing yards to the Chargers. Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton will be key in stopping the Texans “zone” running plays.
Broncos: OUT: Wes Welker (concussion), Derek Wolfe (Illiness), Kayvon Webster (Thumb)
Texans: OUT: Case Keenam (Thumb), Ben Tate (Ribs), Arian Foster (back)
Broncos playoff scenarios
1. Denver clinches the AFC West division title and a first-round bye with a win and a Kansas City loss on Sunday.
2. Denver would clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win combined with a Kansas City loss and a New England loss or tie on Sunday
The Broncos clinched a playoff spot in Week 14.
Stats to know
Peyton Manning needs just 665 passing yards and three touchdowns over Denver’s last two games to tie the NFL single-season records in each category.
Also, with a win on Sunday and a loss by Kansas City, Head Coach John Fox can become just the fifth head coach in NFL history to win division titles in each of his first three seasons with a team.
Denver Broncos get back on track with the postseason right around the corner.