CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The ripe blend leaves Brock Osweiler an easy target. He left the Broncos by choice. He plays for this week's opponent. He faces a Denver team riding a two-game losing streak and will square off against angry defenders who never had the chance to hit him in practice for four seasons.
"It's Brock vs. Broncos. It doesn't get any bigger than that this week." Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller told Denver7. "We know what the defensive guys want to do. We know he wants to win in his return. I get it."
The storyline gained steam with some honest quotes, while understanding their context within the sporting arena. Linebacker Brandon Marshall said the Broncos wanted to "crush and kill" Osweiler. When asked about the quote by Houston reporters on Thursday, Osweiler joked, "I think they miss me."
Miller had no issues with Osweiler. He gets along with everybody. He could also relate to Osweiler's plight to some degree. Miller experienced several months of bumpy contract talks before landing a landmark $114.5 million deal to avoid playing on the franchise tag.
"I can definitely understand what he went through," Miller said.
And so it goes. The Broncos moved on, and put Osweiler firmly in their rearview mirror until their two-game sinkhole. The Broncos haven't lost three straight since 2011. Their quarterback play, encouraging through four games, has dropped off. And yet even with the slump, the Broncos compare favorably to the Texans, who have been unable to get Osweiler on track save for the last Sunday's fourth quarter and overtime.
Always professional with the media, Osweiler retraced his steps in free agency on Thursday. He disputed the benching against the San Diego Chargers in the regular-season finale led to his departure, saying "it didn't weigh in whatsoever." He chose Houston after talking with his wife, family, parents and former coaches, and called "it the hardest decision of my life." The Texans made it easier by offering the most money and a chance to contend. They gave Osweiler a four-year, $72-million deal with $37 million guaranteed. The Broncos countered at four-year, $64 million in March, an amount they were uncomfortable extending given the money required to keep Miller, linebacker Brandon Marshall and receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
"Bottom line, Denver had the opportunity. In fact they had a great, very long period of time to offer. So right before free agency opened, there were two offers on the table. There were two things to examine, to explore, to try to do as much research on it as possible," Osweiler said. "Ultimately, I chose the Texans because that's what I felt was best for my family and myself."
Osweiler conceded he would like to take one remark back. In his opening press conference with the Texans, Osweiler said Houston gave him the best chance to win, which raised eyebrows since he exited the defending Super Bowl 50 champions.
"I don't know if that was probably the correct thing to say," Osweiler said Thursday.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien dismissed reports he wasn't involved in bringing Osweiler into the fold. He called such speculation, "ridiculous and not true." O'Brien was asked directly if he's disappointed in the quarterback's play.
"Look I think offensively we all need to do a better job. I haven’t been disappointed in any individual player," said O'Brien, who took over play calling earlier in this season. "But I have been disappointed in our lack of consistency."
O'Brien hasn't spoken with Osweiler about the challenges of facing his former team in Denver. At least not the outside noise. The Texans have their hands full preparing for the Broncos' menacing defense, which ranks first in sacks.
"It's not like we are going to sit there and have a chat about crowd noise, and 'hey, this guy in the front row might be yelling at you.' Who cares?" O'Brien said.
The Broncos expect Osweiler to receive a rude reception. They don't begrudge him for taking the most money. But it doesn't mean they aren't motivated to squash him.
"We know that he left us. It’s going to be great," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "I’m pretty sure that he wants to win, we want to beat him bad and get a lot of interceptions.”
Brock vs. Broncos by the numbers:
Broncos yards per pass attempt: 6.89, 22nd
Texans yards per attempt: 6.18, 30th
Broncos passing TDs, INTs: 9, 4
Texans passing TDs, INTs: 8, 8
Broncos passer rating: 90.7, 16th
Texans passer rating: 74.1, 30th