How Denver matches up against Texans and predictions



Texans (0-0-1) at Broncos (0-1)

When: 2:25 p.m. MT, Sunday.

Where: Empower Field

Radio/TV: 850 AM, 94.1 FM/CBS

Broncos-Texans series: Broncos are 5-3 in eight regular-season games dating back to 2004; the Broncos won 38-24 in the last meeting, on Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston.


Key matchup

Broncos CB Pat Surtain II vs Texans WR Brandin Cooks

After drawing a matchup with Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf in Week 1, Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II will be tasked with covering another premier receiver in Week 2.

Surtain, arguably the Broncos’ best defensive player in just his second year, will be responsible for Texans’ No. 1 receiver Brandin Cooks when in man coverage on Sunday.

Cooks had seven catches for 82 yards in the Texans’ Week 1 tie with the Colts. The ninth-year pro has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark six times in his career, and has the ability to burn defenses on all variations of short and deep routes.

Head coach Nathaniel Hackett believes Surtain, whom he labeled “a premier player,” will be up to the task after how he covered Metcalf last week. Metcalf did have seven catches for 36 yards on seven targets, but was kept from the game-breaking play, as his longest reception was 15 yards.

“I thought he did great (against Metcalf),” Hackett said. “One of our goals was to be able to limit (Seattle’s top receivers) in their explosiveness. (Surtain) did, and he rose to the challenge. I look forward to that all season.”

Hackett acknowledged Cooks, who has 46 career touchdowns, brings “a lot of juice.”

“We all know what he’s done in his past at all the teams that he’s been with (the Saints, Patriots and Rams),” Hackett said. “He’s an unbelievable vertical threat. We’re going to have to know where he is at all times because we know they’re going to try to throw him the ball down the field.”


Who has the edge?

Quarterback

Even though Russell Wilson couldn’t lift the Broncos to a win in Week 1 in Seattle, there’s no lost faith in No. 3 within Denver’s locker room. Look for him to target his receivers more this week. Texans’ second-year QB Davis Mills is 2-9-1 in 11 career starts. Edge: Broncos

Running back

Melvin Gordon paced Denver with 58 rushing yards last week, and Javonte Williams chipped in 43 more to put Denver over the century mark. Houston has the tailback combination of Dameon Pierce and Rex Burkhead, who aren’t near as good on paper. Edge: Broncos

Receiver/tight end

Jerry Jeudy got off to a roaring start with 104 yards receiving and a touchdown against Seattle, but Denver needs to get him and Courtland Sutton more involved. KJ Hamler (knee/hip) is out. Houston features game-breaking wideout Brandin Cooks. Edge: Broncos

Offensive line

The Broncos’ line was inconsistent in Week 1. Graham Glasgow will start at right guard for Quinn Meinerz (hamstring); Cam Fleming possible at right tackle for Billy Turner (knee). Houston’s led by tackle Laremy Tunsil, who lost most of ’21 to a thumb injury. Edge: Even

Defensive line

D.J. Jones and Mike Purcell are run-stuffing forces, while Dre’Mont Jones can also be a game-changer. Houston’s rush is less certain, and the Texans will need to generate more push against the pass and the run than they did while getting gouged in Week 1. Edge: Broncos

Linebacker

Josey Jewell (calf) is questionable after missing Week 1, leaving Alex Singleton to handle the play calls. Bradley Chubb posted two sacks in Week 1 and Randy Gregory (questionable) forced a fumble. Kamu Grugier-Hill had 18 tackles last week for Houston. Edge: Broncos

Secondary

Justin Simmons is on IR with a quad injury, meaning Caden Sterns will start at safety opposite Kareem Jackson, and P.J. Locke will play the nickel. Pat Surtain II will cover Brandin Cooks. Houston has cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., this year’s No. 3 overall pick. Edge: Even

Special teams

The Broncos had numerous special teams mishaps in Week 1, including returner Montrell Washington taking a kick out of the end zone he should’ve knelt, and Brandon McManus missing the game-winning kick. Houston’s kicker is veteran Ka’imi Fairbairn. Edge: Even


Tale of the tape

Category Broncos Texans
Total offense 433 (4th) 299 (23rd)
Rush offense 103 (T-16th) 73 (23rd)
Pass offense 330 (3rd) 222 (17th)
Points per game 16 (26th) 20 (T-17th)
Total defense 253 (4th) 517 (32nd)
Run defense 76 (T-8th) 177 (27th)
Pass defense 177 (6th) 340 (31st)
Points allowed 17 (8th) 20 (T-12th)

* Through Week 1


By the numbers

67 — Career offensive touchdowns for Melvin Gordon, who needs one more score to tie Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara for the second-most offensive TDs by an active running back since 2015.

94 — Career receptions by Jerry Jeudy, who needs six catches to reach 100 for his career and 75 yards to reach 1,500 career receiving yards.

66 — Consecutive games that safety Justin Simmons started before being sidelined this week (and for at least the next three) with a quad injury.

11 — The number of combined fumbles between Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams in their tenures as Broncos — Gordon eight in three seasons, Williams three in two seasons. Both running backs lost a fumble at the goal line in Week 1.

37 — That’s how many “big play” receptions (25 yards or more) Courtland Sutton’s had since the start of 2018, ranking fourth among AFC receivers over that span.


Betting/fantasy

Line: Broncos -9.5

Don’t take the points. It’s a wide spread for an offense that is still going through growing pains, even if the Broncos are facing off against a subpar Texans defense. Houston is bound to keep it within shouting distance, even if the game’s not really competitive from the get-go.

Prop bet: Over/under 43.5 points 

Bet the under. With the Broncos offense still finding its identity under Russell Wilson, and with the Texans trotting out an unseasoned QB in a loud and intimidating environment, the defenses will set the tone on Sunday and keep this thing under 40 points.


Post predictions

Mark Kiszla, columnist: Broncos 31, Texans 10

OK, after punting on the preseason, rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett finally got in a practice game at Seattle to work out the glitches, including the malfunctioning of his brain under the duress of those tense final seconds in the fourth quarter. Now, with a loss on his permanent record, are the Broncos ready to play some serious football? I think so. And Hackett better hope so.



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