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Broncos at Texans: Top Five Storylines

Posted Dec 20, 2013

What to watch for this week at Houston.

Looking Past the Record

Despite the fact that that Texans are 2-12, including 12 straight losses, the Broncos aren’t focusing on the record.

“I think we’ve done a good job of treating all our opponents the same,” Quarterback Peyton Manning said. “We don’t look at records, we look at the tape. On offense we see a good defense. We see some outstanding players when you’re talking about guys like (defensive end Antonio) Smith and (defensive end J.J.) Watt and guys that can dominate a football game.”

With the Texans eliminated from postseason contention, the Broncos know their opponent will be playing with nothing to lose.

“I definitely think they’re going to probably play the role of a spoiler,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “I would think, regardless of what their record is, they’ve got good players. So I think they’re always a dangerous team and we have to look at them like they’re coming to beat us, definitely.”

NFL’s No. 1 Pass Offense vs. NFL’s No. 2 Pass Defense

Despite the team’s record, Houston has managed to post some favorable statistics this year.

The team’s pass defense ranks second in the NFL, surrendering just 183.3 passing yards per game. That’s nearly half the passing yardage of the Broncos’ top passing offense, which comes in averaging 336.6 yards per game through the air.

“I think all defense probably starts up front,” Manning said. “They have a very disruptive defensive line. They have some outstanding players up there that do a good job disrupting the run game and the pass game with their penetration. They have some guys with really good cover skills on the back end.”

Back in Postseason Control

After last week’s loss to San Diego, the Broncos lost control of their own destiny to clinch the AFC’s top playoff seed.

But then, Miami defeated New England on Sunday to hand the keys back to the Broncos.

“We’re pretty much in a great situation right now,” running back Montee Ball said. “We still have to finish out with two wins. That’s our goal – most definitely focusing on Houston right now so we can achieve that.”

Denver has the opportunity to clinch both the AFC West and the AFC’s top seed with some help on Sunday.

To win the division, Denver would need to beat Houston and have the Chiefs lose to the Colts on Sunday.

The Broncos can secure the top seed and homefield advantage with a win plus losses by both Kansas City and New England, which plays at Baltimore.

“Fortunately, we’re still number-one in our conference and we’ve got two weeks left to make sure that we keep it that way,” wide receiver Eric Decker said. “We’ve got to come out stronger this week against Houston, play better – play better all-around to make sure that we control our own destiny.”

Records on the Horizon

With two games to play, the Broncos’ offense continues on a record-setting pace.

Quarterback Peyton Manning is three touchdowns shy of tying Tom Brady’s single-season record of 50. He is 665 yards away from Drew Brees’ single-season passing yardage record of 5,476 yards, which requires him to average 332.5 passing yards per game to tie that record. Manning has averaged 343.6 passing yards per game thus far.

Despite the possibility of breaking those prestigious records, Manning said he’s just focused on the game in front of him.

“We’re trying to get a win,” Manning said. “It’s about preparing and practice well and hoping we can transfer that to the playing field and that’s what I’m focused on and trying to get us a win because we need one.”

While Manning isn’t concerned with the stats, Fox said he thinks the quarterback deserves to win his fifth career MVP award.

“I don’t think there is any question the kind of season he’s having this year—and not just individual records, I think his win-loss record and team success speaks for itself too,” Fox said. “I don’t think it’s close, personally.”

Will Injuries Keep Webster, Welker, Wolfe Out?

Cornerback Kayvon Webster, wide receiver Wes Welker and defensive end Derek Wolfe continue to recover from respective their thumb injury, concussion and illness.

None of the three have practiced this week, leaving their statuses for this week’s game in Houston up in the air.

Visit DenverBroncos.com later today for the full injury report for this week’s game, including game statuses for those three players.