Houston has gotten off to a 2-0 start, but their schedule hits a particularly difficult patch, starting with this week’s 3:25 CST kickoff at Mile High against the Broncos. This should help to show whether Houston is the legitimate Super Bowl contender many say they are. Denver’s starting right guard Chris Kuper is not expected to play. Houston has several defenders licking their wounds, but the starters should all suit up for the game. Here is what to watch for:
He’ll be the top story in most every regular season game he plays this year. Houston didn’t have to face Peyton (twice) in last season’s defensive renaissance. But expect the veterans to be familiar with Peyton from his days as a Colt, and Peyton due to his unparalleled work studying game tape. Brian Cushing (ribs), Antonio Smith (ankle) and Brooks Reed (hip) are banged up, but the pass rush should still give Manning fits.
Houston Run Defense vs. Willis McGahee
While the Broncos’ passing game will get more focus from the media, it’s McGahee’s success that could decide the game. Kuper is a big loss for a very weak offensive line, but you wouldn’t know it from how McGahee has been running, as he comes off a 113 yard, 2 touchdown game, despite facing an Atlanta defense that was clicking on all cylinders on Monday night. Houston again had some trouble stuffing the run, allowing 5 yards per carry to MJD. If Houston has another bad week in this area, run defense could prove to be the team’s Achilles’ heel.
Houston Receivers vs. Denver Cornerbacks
In all likelihood, this will be more about Andre Johnson, and whoever Denver puts on him, and finally on who wins the matchup. My guess is Denver will look to Champ Bailey first, even though Tracy Porter has been excellent these first two weeks. Johnson said of Bailey, “He’s a great player, a future hall of famer in my book. It will be a great challenge for me to go up against arguably the best cornerback in the game and one of the best to ever do it.” Johnson was well-covered last week, but wasn’t really needed. Look for more of the same this week, especially Arian Foster in the passing game.
Prediction: HOU 24, DEN 21