Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 2: Texans-Broncos — Four Things To Watch For

The Texans' defense will be put to the test on Sunday in Denver.
The Texans' defense will be put to the test on Sunday in Denver. Photo by Jack Gorman
The Houston Texans, fresh off an uninspiring 20-20 tie in which they coughed up a 20-3 fourth quarter lead to the Indianapolis Colts. step up in weight class, both in terms of opponent and majorly in terms of environment, as they travel to Denver this Sunday for a late afternoon game (3:25 p.m. kickoff time) against the 0-1 Denver Broncos.

The Broncos are one of a handful of teams sporting a new look at quarterback in 2022, having traded major draft capital to Seattle back in March for Russell Wilson. They took the relationship to the next level a couple weeks ago, handing Wilson a five-year, $245 million contract extension that, barring a trade demand, will make him a Bronco likely for the rest of his career.

The Texans are heavy underdogs, 10 point underdogs, to be exact, in the first of what could be a handful of Texans games that sport a double digit betting line this season. Let's lay out the storylines to keep an eye on this Sunday:

4. Hungry Broncos
The Broncos lost on national television on Monday night, 17-16 in Seattle, in the worst possible way — by turning the ball over twice at the opposing one-yard line and then having their head coach make the most boneheaded decision of the season for ANY coach thus far (more on that in a minute). The Broncos were heavily favored (6.5 point spread) in Seattle on Monday, and in the gauntlet that is the AFC West, they can ill afford to lose another game to a team that they, quite honestly, probably chalked up as a win before the season. In short, the Texans will get the best version of the Broncos, and likely the best version of the Broncos crowd in Wilson's first home game in Denver. The Broncos' next four games are, in total, a fairly treacherous stretch — Sunday Night Football against the 49ers, Week 4 at Las Vegas, then a short week for Thursday Night Football versus the Colts, and capped off by Monday Night Football at the Chargers.

3. Pierce Takeover
The two biggest things that angered Texans fans about Sunday's tie, aside from the mere existence of ties as a concept, were Lovie Smith's decision to punt the ball late in overtime and accept the tie (more on that in a minute), and the usage of Rex Burkhead over Dameon Pierce as the lead running back. Pierce was the talk of the preseason here in Houston, and he was shoved to the back burner for the plodding, uninspiring running style of Burkhead. Lovie Smith admitted the mistake in back usage a couple times this week, so you Pierce fantasy owners, go ahead and start him again. And you angry Texan fans, let's hope that the offensive line learns how to run block at some point, or it won't matter who is toting the rock.

2. Secondary under siege
The Texans' defense held up nicely for three quarters on Sunday, largely through some splashy plays like Jerry Hughes' interception in the second quarter and a fumble recovery on a botched snap. Things cratered in the fourth quarter and the Colts wound up with over 500 yards of total offense for the game. The Texans are facing a more balanced, more talented skill group on Sunday. Wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton will test the Texans' revamped secondary, for sure, but the real worry is the use of the Bronco tight ends and the running backs in the passing game. RB Javonte Williams caught 11 balls on Monday against the Seahawks, and in the Texans' tie, the Colts targeted LB Kamu Grugier-Hill in the passing game 16 times. SIXTEEN! The guess here is that the Broncos seek out where Texans jersey number 51 is on passing downs, and it could get ugly.

1. Two embattled head coaches
It's not a stretch to say that this game matches up the two head coaches who made the most polarizing decisions of Week 1 last weekend. Well, Lovie Smith's decision to punt in overtime was polarizing, at least, as there were sound arguments on either side of that choice. For Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, there was nothing really polarizing, because polarizing is defined as "separating into two contrasting groups." There was no contrasting group for Hackett's decision to attempt a 64-yard field goal to try to win the game on Monday, as opposed to letting Wilson try to convert a short fourth down at midfield.

EVERYONE knew in the moment the decision was idiotic. So that will be a fun storyline on the two sidelines — if this game is close in the second half, which coach flinches and botches simple game management?

Unfortunately, for Texans fans, I don't think this one is close.

SPREAD: Texans +10
PREDICTION: Broncos 30, Texans 13

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast