Safety valves

Now for a tale of two safeties.

Texans strong safety Jason Simmons will miss his second-straight game Sunday at Denver because of a concussion he suffered at Tennessee Oct. 17. Simmons has had reoccurring headaches and head coach Dom Capers said the team will not run any risk of aggravating the injury.

He said the team should have every other player available.

The Broncos ended a guessing game Friday afternoon with starting free safety John Lynch. Lynch, who suffered a stress fracture in his tailbone last week was listed as doubtful throughout the week but will not play Sunday.

Lynch was scheduled to miss two to four weeks but made a push to play against the Texans.

Lynch was one of the more high profile free agent acquisitions by the Broncos last off season. He helped Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl in 2002 and has 34 tackles this season.

His replacement, Nick Ferguson, has experience but has not started a game at either safety position since December.

Ferguson has one career interception and totaled 74 tackles last season.

The Broncos will also go without defensive end Trevor Pryce who is recovering from back surgery. Any change in the secondary raises eyebrows around Houston since most teams have used a safety to help cover wide receiver Andre Johnson.

Johnson is fourth in the NFL in receiving yards.

"Lynch is a bigger guy but Ferguson has been maybe their best special teams players," Capers said. "They're both physical players. I don't think it will change much at all really."

The Broncos (5-3) are losers of two straight and will go into a bye week after this weekend. The Texans (4-3) conversely have won two straight on the road and four of the last five.

The only thing higher than the altitude in Denver is expectations. Both have played into Capers scenarios.

"I think our team understands the importance of this game," he said. "Every week it's a step-by-step process as far as climbing the ladder. Denver is one of the toughest places in the league to go in and play. They've got a great home record. We have to go in with the kind of focus and concentration we went on the road with the last two times in Kansas City and Tennessee."

As for thin air and condition the Texans have outscored opponents 58-17 in the fourth quarter so the coach plans to stick with what works and not try to rotate players through the game any more than normal.

"I think as you look at the NFL most of the games are won or lost in the fourth quarter so you have to place emphasis at being at your best at crunch time," Capers said. "We've played an awful lot of close football games around here last year but we lost a lot of those close football games at the end."

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