No, I will not give you five, Peyton. I'm leaving you hanging.
Last week's predictions were rather hit or miss (before you say something, yes, I realize all predictions are by definition hit or miss...it's merely a turn of phrase which I'll use to segue into a quick tangent about Blaine Gabbert, thankyouverymuch), which I attribute to me giving Jacksonville far too much credit. What was I thinking? I watched Blaine Gabbert play QB last year. How could I predict that he'd somehow lead a team to 16 points against a Houston defense that's firing on all cylinders? Blaine Gabbert is not a good NFL quarterback. That could change at some point, but it hasn't changed yet. That failure's on me, and I'll get it corrected. Or maybe I won't, and this weekly feature will become even more of a dumpster fire than it already is. I suppose you'll just have to keep reading to see.
This week sees your Houston Texans traveling to Denver to face longtime nemesis Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Can I put aside ten (10) plus years of abject terror and the silo of respect that fear has generated for Peyton to pick the Texans to go 3-0 FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FRANCHISE HISTORY? I honestly don't know. I've gone back and forth on it about 374 times since I started typing this post. My final answer appears at the end of this entry, which you'll have to click below to see. Before we get there, however, please allow me to present three (3) things that are sure to happen in Denver on Sunday afternoon.
1. I know Lance Zierlein and TexansDC have identified it as a potentially monstrous problem for the Texans on Sunday, and I couldn't agree more. I'll take it a step further: Peyton Manning is going to abuse Kareem Jackson. Now, I know Ice Kareem has improved from the abysmal level of incompetence we once so frequently lamented. I think I'd even agree that he's not the worst starter on Houston's defense. But if anyone is capable of destroying Kareem Jackson, it's Peyton. When you also factor in that Peyton's arm strength is not where it once was and that Kareem likes to give his man a cushion coming off the line of scrimmage, it makes even more sense for the Broncos to target Kareem underneath all day long. If there's one place where I feel confident saying the Texans will suffer, it's there. I'm also a bit worried about how the Texans' LBs will handle Denver's TEs, but I fear Peyton painting a bullseye on the back of K-Jax more.
2. The Texans have come out throwing the first two weeks of the season. One of the things that really stuck with me from last week's win in Jacksonville was the feeling that Matt Schaub desperately wanted to take a shot or two downfield and simply couldn't; the Jags, for all their flaws, did a sublime job taking away the deep stuff. Schaub was forced to make hay underneath, and he did well not to force anything. The Texans' offense will always be paced by Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but I feel like the opportunity to throw it around a little more--and a little further down the field--will present itself on Sunday. Champ Bailey's one of the best in the game and should be glued to Andre Johnson. He won't be glued to Lestar Jean, however, and that's why I'm calling a Jean touchdown reception of 25+ yards.
3. Peyton Manning's quick release usually serves to minimize the number of times he gets sacked. Nevertheless, J.J. Watt will get to him once, and it'd be downright foolish of me to predict that he won't also bat down a pass, so I won't. I also think the Texans are the beneficiaries of two Denver turnovers--one interception from Manning and one fumble (caused by Brian Cushing) from Willis McGahee.
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: A mere two weeks ago, when we were all throwing down season predictions, I called this game a loss for the Texans. I'm tempted to stay with that. The Broncos are a much better team than the Dolphins or Jaguars, the game is in Denver, and if there is a single player who has been a Texans-Killer throughout his career, it's Peyton Manning. The problem with sticking to my guns is that the Texans have given me absolutely no reason to pick against them. None. They've looked as strong as any team in the league over the first two weeks of the season. The Broncos, on the other hand, have given me a reason to question them; Peyton Manning was exposed, at least to some degree, in the Broncos' loss to Atlanta on Monday night. His arm is simply not there yet. That's not to say it won't be at some point this season; I don't know. And I remain petrified of what Peyton has done and still can do to the Texans, especially on quick routes underneath, no matter how strong his arm is. Nevertheless, I believe the Texans will emerge victorious on Sunday. Texans 26, Broncos 23.