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Broncos Roundtable: Demaryius Thomas revenge game?

Zac Stevens Avatar
November 2, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Fresh off playing the best team in the AFC, the 7-1 Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos now face the hottest team in the AFC, the 5-3 Houston Texans.

Life in the NFL is hard.

After a dismal 0-3 start, not only have the Texans rolled off five-straight wins, they’ve had extra time to prepare for the Broncos as their Week 8 victory over the Miami Dolphins was a Thursday night game.

The Broncos, on the other hand, are coming off a seven-point loss at the hands of the Chiefs and need a spark before their Week 10 bye.

Speaking of sparks, the Texans will be debuting a new receiver: Demaryius Thomas.

Will Denver enter their off week with a major win at home? Or will the team fall to 3-6 with plenty of time to make changes?

The BSN Broncos crew breaks it down.

HOW MUCH OF A THREAT IS DEMARYIUS THOMAS?

Ryan

A slight threat — When we put all of the nostalgia and emotion aside, we can admit that DT doesn’t really take over games anymore.

With that being said, the reason he is a threat is because you can totally tell that Bill O’Brien is a petty guy. The Texans or going to be all about giving Demaryius a chance to have a revenge game.

With the Broncos shorthanded at corner, DT will probably have a few catches, but the limitations created by the fact that he’s entering a new offense won’t help him to go off.

Zac

Big time — In his prime with the Broncos, DT was one of the biggest receiving threats in the entire NFL. Now, debuting with the Texans, the nine-year vet isn’t consistently a major threat, but for this game, he’ll be a big threat in terms of the big play.

Since the new Texan won’t know the entire playbook, DT will be assigned to relatively straight-forward routes and plays, those being screens and deep shots.

It’s realistic for DT to have a relatively quiet debut, as he’ll be with his new team for less than a week, but it’s also quite possible the Texans will set him up to capitalize on many deep shots, which will allow him to rack up the yards and touchdowns.

Andre

More than you’d think — Sure, DT has only been with the Texans for less than a week, but there are several factors that’ll make him more dangerous in this matchup than most would think.

First off, Deshaun Watson is an accurate quarterback who gets the ball out quickly and will greatly benefit from a savvy veteran like Thomas who can get open underneath—especially if the Broncos insist on playing tons of off coverage, gifting DT a free release.

Thomas will also benefit from DeAndre Hopkins taking most of the attention away from him on the opposite side and a speedster like Keke Coutee stretching the secondary vertically. That receiving core should open up even more space underneath for DT.

All that added to Thomas’ familiarity with the Broncos defense and their cornerbacks will make him a dangerous cover on Sunday.

WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR THE BRONCOS IN THIS GAME?

Ryan

Hope — Hope for the fans, hope for the players, hope for the coaching staff. Any remaining hope that this season can be successful rests on the shoulders of this game.

Win and you’re just one game under .500 heading into the Bye Week with seven games remaining, anything can happen. Lose and you’re three games under .500 with seven games remaining, and the draft talk will be in full force during the Bye Week.

In short, everything. Everything is at stake.

No pressure, though.

Zac

Any chance of an interesting second half — Beating the Texans would be a great win for Vance Joseph and his team. Saying that, however, it wouldn’t completely change the season by any means.

A win would ensure the coaching staff stays intact entering the bye week — which would go a long way in carrying them through the rest of the season — and it would keep Broncos fans tuning into games after the bye.

A loss, on the other hand, puts the final nail in the coffin to Denver’s season and opens the door to all sorts of change.

Andre

A fork in the road — This is a real crossroads moment for the 2018 Broncos; win, and the second half of the season doesn’t seem so daunting after the Week 10 bye, lose, and no one on the coaching staff is safe. Bill Musgrave and Vance Joseph would be the first candidates to take the fall, as public outcry might be overwhelming for the organization.

If the Broncos were to win, that could change things drastically, giving Denver momentum going into the second half after a W against a hot team that leads the AFC South.

At 4-5, the second half would look fairly promising, with games against the LA Chargers (twice) and Cincinnati Bengals seeming less daunting if the Broncos had some swagger from a win over Houston. Denver also faces the lowly San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, and Oakland Raiders in the second half. Suddenly, a 10-6 record wouldn’t seem out of reach.

With a loss, no one would be safe as even Case Keenum might be benched, and the repercussions could be great in a bye week that allows for big moves to be made from the front office. 

Last week was a must win, this week is a true crossroads game for Vance Joseph’s tenure.

KEY MATCHUP

Ryan

Broncos run game vs. Houston’s front seven — The Texans have been a very solid team against the run this year, and with guys like Watt, Clowney and Mercilus on their side, that should be no surprise.

Where the Texans aren’t quite as stout, though, is up the middle of their defense, where the Broncos may have an advantage and an opportunity to establish a run game.

One of the reasons Phillip Lindsay leads the league in yards per carry before contact has been Bill Musgraves ability to dial up draw plays at the right time, giving Lindsay big holes up the middle to run through.

If Denver can get the ground game established early up the middle, they’ll have a chance to keep those deadly pass rushers honest.

Zac

Broncos’ pass blocking v. Houston’s pass rush — In terms of production, Von Miller and J.J. Watt have been nearly identical since entering the league as first-round picks in 2011.

Miller has six 10-plus-sack seasons and a Super Bowl MVP under his belt, while Watt has three 17.5-plus-sack seasons and three Defensive Player of the Year honors.

This year is no different as both players have eight sacks to prove they are still the game-wreckers they’re paid to be.

In Houston’s five wins, Watt has at least one sack in all but one. Opposite Watt, all of Jadeveon Clowney’s sacks have come in the Texans’ five wins.

If Denver isn’t able to slow these guys down, Denver’s passing game will have no chance of sustained success, not to mention the big plays the Texans will make by getting to Case Keenum early and often.

It doesn’t look promising for Denver as Watt and Clowney will be going up against Garett Bolles and Jared Veldheer — two players that haven’t been consistent through the first half of the season.

Oh, safety Tyrann Mathieu — aka The Honey Badger — has a sack in back-to-back games entering Sunday.

Andre

Stopping DeAndre Hopkins — How the Broncos decide to defend Hopkins will dictate a lot of the chess match between the Denver ‘D’ and Houston’s passing attack.

With three starters in the Broncos back seven out this week, that matchup will be key, even if outside of Hopkins, the Texans don’t present a ton of miss-match problems at their skill positions. 

The most logical solution would be to stick Chris Harris Jr. on Hopkins and have him follow the Texans No. 1 target around the formation. In that case, Houston would have a big size advantage, though Harris might actually be the most physically apt CB to confront Hopkins at the line when pressing and have the instincts to react quickly enough on short routes to DeAndre when playing off.

Any catch Hopkins makes has to be respected, as he’s bullied his way through opposing defenses, producing 198 yards after the catch (YAC) this season. Sound tackling will be essential in limiting Houston’s star wideout. 

If they lessen Hopkins’ impact, the Broncos will have a good shot at winning.

THE BRONCOS WIN IF

Ryan

Case Keenum has his first clean game — Case Keenum is the first quarterback since 2015 to throw an interception in each of his first eight games. To be frank, it’s getting a little ridiculous, and it’s one of the main reasons the Broncos have struggled thus far.

If Keenum can finally keep the sheet clean, the Broncos will be in a position to win what figures to be a close game.

Zac

Von “game-wrecks” more than J.J. — Not only will each future perennial All-Pro have many opportunities to make game-changing plays, they’ll have the opportunity to wreck the opposing team’s gameplans.

If Von has a better game than J.J., that’ll open up opportunities for Bradley Chubb to wreak-havoc on Deshaun Watson as well and limit Demaryius Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins in the passing game, too.

Von and J.J. have the opportunity to completely derail the opposing offense. Whoever does a better job for their team will have a big impact on the outcome.

Andre

The O-line and back seven hold up — The return of Jared Veldheer should really help the Broncos offensive line that’s been impacted by injuries, and fell apart in the second half at Kansas City last week.

Disciplined play up front, added to a continued commitment to running the ball, will be crucial in the Broncos finding offensive success.

Breakdowns in coverage can’t keep occurring either, and that’ll be even harder with three veteran starters in the back seven out. The linebackers and secondary might not be the “No-fly” anymore, but they should be good enough to play consistently for four quarters. If coverage is sound, the Texans will have a hard time on offense.

Denver’s mantra has to be ‘bend don’t break’ in coverage and maybe on the OL too, if they can execute, there’s enough talent on the Broncos defensive front, receivers, and running backs to win the game. 

RESULT

Ryan

Broncos 27, Texans 24 — Yes, the Texans have won five in a row, but those five wins have come against the Colts, Cowboys, Bills, Jags, and Dolphins. All the schedule luck that the Broncos haven’t had, the Texans have.

Now, that’s not to say they aren’t a formidable opponent, but they aren’t as good as they look and they aren’t nearly as good as the Chiefs or Rams, who the Broncos played very close.

The Broncos have actually been a strong team at home this year. They get the job done on Sunday in a nailbiter.

Zac

Texans 23, Broncos 20 — The Texans are absolutely rolling in their AFC-best five-game win streak. In three of their last four games, the defense carried them, only giving up an average of 12 points per game.

Last week, however, their offense caught fire, putting up 42 points led by five Watson passing touchdowns and a nearly perfect 156 passer rating.

Since Week 3, the Broncos have played many good teams close but just haven’t found a way to win. In the last five weeks, the only thing the Texans know what to do is win.

Andre

20 Texans, 17 Broncos — This is going to be a close one, and I have a feeling both defenses will dominate. 

Both offensive lines will struggle here, and Denver will be challenged by the NFL’s seventh-best run defense, forcing Case Keenum to step up which doesn’t play into the Broncos hand.

I predict a close loss as Watson just makes a few more plays than Keenum.

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