The loss to the Jaguars have brought the Houston Texans to this moment. They are 6-5 and in a dogfight for one of the final playoff spots in the AFC. Over half of their remaining games are against teams that will also be in that dogfight. That includes teams like the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, and Cleveland Browns. That gauntlet starts this week as the Texans take on the Broncos.
While the teams may duke it out on the field, we are one big happy family here at SB Nation. We went to our sister site Mile High Report to get some background information on the Broncos as they come in to battle the Texans. Ian St. Clair was generous enough with his time to sit down and answer five questions about the Broncos. As per usual, the conversation started with the quarterbacks.
Battle Red Blog: Russell Wilson is obviously playing better this year. Do you think it is mostly him or mostly the switch from Hackett to Payton? Are there other factors we are missing?
Ian St. Clair: It’s a combination of Wilson playing better and Payton being in the fold. But there’s no doubt Payton is the biggest reason why Wilson is playing so well. Payton is the reason for the Broncos turnaround from 1-5 to 6-5. Wilson needed and wanted the coaching that Payton brings. Wilson bought in the second Payton was brought in as the head coach. The most important factor in this was Wilson wanting the coaching. But Wilson can get even better the more he gets comfortable with Payton and this offense. That’s the case for the Broncos as a whole. The other factor has been the play of Denver’s offensive line. This unit has gone from a trouble spot to one of the best in the NFL.
BRB: The Broncos are the winners of five straight. What’s been the biggest difference between in the last five and their first six?
ISC: Denver had to learn how not to lose games before it could win. The start was incredibly frustrating, especially the losses to the Las Vegas Raiders, Washington Commanders and New York Jets. But the Broncos needed the start to get to where they are now. A team that believes and has the confidence it can beat any team in the league, no matter what happens over the course of the game. And it’s because of Payton and his coaching staff. Denver isn’t where it is right now if not for the tough start.
BRB: Who are some players on offense and defense we may not have heard of but will play a huge role on Sunday?
ISC: On offense, keep an eye on Jaleel McLaughlin and Marvin Mims. Both of those guys have the ability to break plays loose. Mims not just as a receiver but a returner. He’s been of the best returners in the NFL at this point in the season. On defense, watch Ja’Quan McMillian. The cornerback got his opportunity against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8 and hasn’t looked back. McMillian has been phenomenal for the Broncos and will play a big role for the defense if it has success on Sunday.
BRB: Winning the AFC West may be a tall order but both teams are in the thick of a wild card fight. Who do you see as the Broncos chief competition for one of those spots?
ISC: Obviously this Sunday is huge for Denver and Houston. The team that gets the win has the leg up on the other for a Wild Card spot. Based on the schedule, the Pittsburgh Steelers seem like a lock for a Wild Card spot. That leaves the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts. The Texans play both of those teams, so when Denver wins on Sunday, they still have a shot. The Buffalo Bills are done.
BRB: According to DraftKings, the Texans open as 2.5 point favorites. Do you feel the Broncos are being taken lightly in spite of their winning streak? How do you see the game going?
ISC: The spread makes total sense since the game is in Houston. If Sunday’s game were in Denver, the Broncos would be favored. However, I do feel Denver is being taken lightly. The Broncos have the recipe to win on the road and that’s how they played against the Browns. Run the ball, be efficient on third and the red zone on offense. On defense, continue to force turnovers and bend-but-don’t-break. Denver needs to limit the big plays and get pressure on C.J. Stroud. It will be a tough game, but I see the Broncos getting the 20-17 win.
We want to thank Ian again for sitting down and talking to us about the Broncos. Like the Texans, they have turned things around and much of that can be attributed to the work of their coaching staff. We want to wish Ian the best of luck moving forward and we hope the Broncos have a lot of luck as well beginning on Monday morning.