Houston Texans (4-2 SU, 3-2-1 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (4-2 SU, 4-2 ATS)
Week 7 NFL
Date/Time: Monday Night Football, October 24, 2016 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: HOU +7.5/DEN -7.5
Over/Under Total: 41
The Houston Texans come to Mile High on Monday Night Football to face the Denver Broncos in key AFC action. Brock Osweiler returns to his old team the season after they let him get taken in free agency. And Denver is looking to end a two-game slide after going 4-0 to start the season. They hope to get back to the business of winning after losing, 21-13, to the Chargers on the road on Thursday Night Football. They host a Texans team that won a huge game on Sunday night, rallying from 14 down in the game's final 2:37 to beat the Colts in overtime, 26-23.
On one hand, it's likely that Broncos supporters would have taken a 4-2 start to their season with the uncertainty on offense, namely with their QB situation. But in losing 2 straight, we've seen a coming-down-to-earth period for the Broncos these last few weeks. They lost at home to the Broncos, before the Chargers loss. And the offense looked ragged in both games, with 29 combined points in those games. It's important to note that head coach Gary Kubiak, who fell ill after the Broncos loss to Atlanta, was forced to sit out Thursday's game and will be back on the sideline this week.
Trevor Siemian started the season with a lot of optimism for the Broncos. But an injury, followed by a rough game have some people thinking twice. He registered just 230 yards on 50 attempts against San Diego. Even with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and others, he is sometimes challenged in connecting with his targets or in getting the ball downfield more. CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker offer some upside in the ground game, but the Broncos haven't really allowed their run-game to establish much of a rhythm this season. At best, it's a pretty middling offense.
The defense has been a bit off-key in their past two games, but that's more of a case of having super-high expectations. Giving up 44 combined points to the Atlanta and San Diego offenses is by no means bad. And they haven't been getting great support from the other side of the ball. Still, they're getting good performances across all phases of this group and they just might be able to ride their "D" to big things this season. Von Miller, Shane Ray, and Derek Wolfe have a combined 16 sacks already this season. The secondary of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, TJ Ward, and Darian Stewart have been really good—the second-ranked pass "D" in the league. They're also second in turnovers, as they are a stout and playmaking unit.
One doesn't want to overdo stating the importance of a single game. It still stands out as a fork in the road moment for the Broncos. Going to 4-3 after a 4-0 start would be deflating. Some bad thoughts could start setting in, as well as a delayed Super Bowl hangover affect. A win makes them 5-2 and gives them the feeling that they're back on track, still among the contenders in the conference. A home game against the Texans is a good litmus test to determine where the Broncos truly stand as they get close to the season's midway point.
The Texans really stunned the audience at home, those of them that were still left when it was 23-9 Indy late in the 4th quarter with the Houston offense on sabbatical. But with his back to the wall, Brock Osweiler was able to forge the most unlikely of comebacks. And in the process, he legitimized himself to some degree. Up until the comeback against Indy, Osweiler was starting to look a bit ragged and hardly like the savior of the team, a squad that has struggled with QB play in recent years.
Osweiler was big on Sunday night, both in regulation and in overtime. A 10-yard TD score to Lamar Miller got the lead down to 7. The defense did its job in getting the quick stop. Osweiler then hit tight end CJ Fiedorowicz from 26 yards out for the tying score. In overtime, a big reception to Jaelen Strong put the Texans close for the game-winner. The offense got a big boost from Lamar Miller, who ran for a big 149 yards and a TD, while also catching 3 passes and another TD. DeAndre Hopkins caught 9 balls. But the offense was mostly off-key until late in the kind of win that could be galvanizing. They really fought and refused to just fade dutifully into the night. That could serve them well moving forward.
The Houston defense did a pretty good job on Sunday in keeping Andrew Luck in check. They were able to get some key stops, like Benardrick McKinney getting a sack in overtime on third down to force a punt. Against the pass, they've been pretty solid, making one wonder what will happen with the Broncos' struggling passing-game. They are missing a lot of key guys, like JJ Watt, and DBs Kareem Jackson and Quintin Demps. And they should get better as guys start getting back to full-power.
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Houston is 4-2 and they've done so pretty quietly. They showed a lot of fight on Sunday. They're the type of team that can stink up the joint for long stretches of the game before coming to life. They're a team that made the playoffs last season and looks to do so again this season. But when you watch them, there are periods where they don't seem particularly strong. But results are what counts in this business and in that regard, there isn't much bad to say. They've overachieved over the past season-plus. The defense is excellent and deep and the offense could come around with a lot of different pieces providing production over recent weeks.
A record of 5-2 just seems so much better than 4-3. Both teams have won 4 of their first six games. The Broncos will be really be aiming to avoid the 3-game losing streak. And their defense looks to present a lot of issues if the Texans' offense isn't firing on all cylinders. But a lackluster-of-late Denver offense could also find some fierce resistance this week. Maybe Denver can get a little boost from their head coach being back in the fold or having the long week to figure out how they're going to get back on the right track. There's just nothing abut this Denver offense that makes you want to lay this many points. I'm taking the points.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Houston Texans plus 7.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Texans vs. Broncos game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!