To continue their winning streak, the Texans must find a way to knock off a Denver team in one of the toughest environments in sports.
That's right, in all of sports!! Since Pat Bowlen bought the team in year two of the Elway era (1984), the Broncos have the 4th best winning percentage in all of American sports. And that's home AND road. At 'Mile High', they have the best record in the league over that span. And Sunday will be their 400th consecutive sellout, an NFL record.
This Broncos team is not to be confused with Elway's (oh, wait a minute. It IS Elway's team. But you knew what I meant.) or Peyton Manning's or even Jake Plummer's bunch that hosted an AFC Championship game in 2005. But they do have some things going for them that will make this a very tough hurdle for your Texans on their way into the bye.
Don't be fooled by a team's record. No one is calling the Broncos Super Bowl contenders. But a close look at their schedule reveals close losses at Kansas City and to the Rams at home. They beat Seattle opening day. The biggest blemish was a lopsided loss at the Jets.
Denver leads the NFL in yards per carry at 5.3. They will try to do what the five teams the Texans have beaten in the streak had trouble with; run the ball well. Denver has the tools to do it, too. And if they start getting some daylight with the ground game, that'll make Case Keenum that much more effective.
And guess what? The Texans want to do exactly the same thing. They've been running it better. And Deshaun Watson has only had to throw the ball 44 times, combined, in the last two games. Bill O'Brien will take that formula every Sunday. That is, as long as he's not seeing his QB sacked (not for the last seven quarters) or turning the ball over (clean, the last two games).
A big key to all this is the improvement of Houston's defense. Somehow the Texans must weather the storm with the injuries at cornerback and inside linebacker. If they manage to keep the good times rolling through Sunday, help is on the way after the bye.
Every week is huge in the NFL. This is why we love it. This game has more storylines than a Netflix series. Keenum plays against his former employer, Demaryius Thomas plays against his. Gary Kubiak still works in Denver. One of his sons is on the staff. The Texans are looking to become the first team since the merger to win six straight after an 0-3 start.
A loss will hardly shakedown the season. Houston will still be in first in the division no matter what happens Sunday. But a win keeps the pedal to the metal and keeps pace on the heels of the AFC leaders.
It's another big turn in the road and we're all eager to see how the squad handles it.
Check out the best Week 2 images from Texans team photographer Zach Tarrant. Presented by Houston Methodist.