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John J. Raspanti
The Houston Texans (2-0) had no trouble rolling over Miami and Jacksonville by a combined score of 57-17. Their third game, against the Denver Broncos (1-1) in Denver promises to be a stiffer test.
"These two are behind us, and it's time to start looking forward," said Houston coach Gary Kubiak. "We know we've got a huge test coming down there, with Peyton leading the way for them and the type of player he is."
Houston is hoping to make franchise history by opening the season with three consecutive victories. Quarterback Matt Schaub has completed 70 percent of his passes. His play has been consistent - with no interceptions. Running back Arian Foster is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. Schaub's favorite target is Andre Johnson. The 10-year veteran has caught 11 passes for 140 yards and a score.
Denver got out of the blocks impressively by shellacking the Pittsburg Steelers 31-19 two weeks ago. Their loss last weekend to the Atlanta Falcons raised some questions about the health and condition of quarterback Peyton Manning. The 11-time Pro Bowler threw three first quarter interceptions.
"Really, three poor decisions, three throws into coverage," said Manning. "Each turnover has its own story that no one really wants to hear. I've just got to take care of the ball better."
Manning has completed 68 percent passes with three touchdowns. Running back Willis McGahee has gained 177 yards and scored two touchdowns. Manning has found Demaryious Thomas 13 times for 188 yards. Eric Decker has nine catches for 107 yards.
The Texans are first in the NFL in total defense (196.0 yards per game). Linebacker Brian Cushing has collected nine tackles to lead the unit. Defensive end J.J. Watt has sacked the opposing quarterback three times. Houston left tackle Duane Brown is reluctant to draw any conclusions from one bad game by Manning.
"You've got to respect his greatness," Brown said. "You see what he's able to do when he's on the field, and keeping him off the field is the best defense for us."
Denver ranks eighth in total defense. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard leads the way with 18 tackles. Strong safety Mike Adams is second with 12. Outside linebacker Von Miller has nine tackles and three sacks.
The Broncos are tough at home and should play well. The Texans quest for three victories in a row could be even tougher than expected.
What we learned last week is that while Peyton Manning is a huge boost to the Broncos, it still takes a team effort. They fell short last week and are up against it against this week. The Texans were knocking on the door last year and are now primed to kick it in this year. Their schedule is very cooperative so all futures players take note. It would be a shock if they didn't end up in the AFC Title game. In this spot, with the line at just -1.5, we're simply being asked to pick a straight up winner. The feeling here is that the Texans are the more polished team at this point, on both sides of the ball.
We hate going with the popular choice (80% of the action at sportsbook.ag is on the Texans) and we hate going against a guy that can win games all by himself, but we're going to go ahead and back the Texans here, to pick up one of many wins to come in 2012. Texans -1.5
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