Texans-Broncos: Five matchups to watch

Texans-Broncos: Five matchups to watch
December 21, 2013, 11:15 am
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(USA Today Images)

The Texans (2-12) will take another crack at ending their long losing streak on Sunday but it won’t be easy. They’re hosting the Broncos (11-3), who are still playing for playoff positioning.

Here are five matchups to watch:

1. Peyton Manning vs. Mays and Sharpton
Manning is three touchdowns shy of tying Tom Brady’s single season touchdown record and there’s a really good chance he breaks that record on Sunday. What makes Manning so special is his ability to change plays at the line and prey on weaknesses in defenses. One of the biggest weaknesses in the Texans’ defense is their inside linebackers in coverage. Manning will do everything he can to get Joe Mays and Darryl Sharpton covering running backs and tight ends in space.

2. D.J. Swearinger vs. Julius Thomas
Julius Thomas has quickly turned into one of the best tight ends in football. The 6-5 Thomas has caught 54 balls this year and might be a favorite target of Manning’s on Sunday, especially since he’ll be going against a rookie. Swearinger won’t be the only player on Thomas Sunday but he’ll get him for a bulk of the afternoon.

3. Andre Johnson vs. Champ Bailey
Bailey has struggled to stay healthy this season. He’s played in just three games but the Pro Bowler will be back for this Sunday’s game. Bailey has been Pro Bowl corner for a long time but because of injuries, he isn’t that this year. But it should still be fun to see what he’s able to do against Johnson. Johnson comes into the game one catch shy of 100 for the season. When he gets there, he’ll be the second player in NFL history with five 100-catch seasons. He’s also 205 yards shy of 1,500. If he get there, he’ll be the first player to have four 100-catch, 1,500-yard seasons.

4. Johnathan Joseph vs. Demaryius Thomas
Joseph hurt his groin in the last game but he’s ready to go. And that’s good news for the Texans because even without Wes Welker, the Broncos have very good receivers and it starts with Thomas. Thomas has 78 catches for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns.

5. Matt Schaub vs. Denver defense
This will be Schaub’s first start since the Rams game on Oct. 13. It’s not just a chance for him to help the Texans get a win, it’s a chance for him to prove to the rest of the NFL that he can still play. Obviously things didn’t go well for Schaub early in the year but this is an audition for the other teams in the league for next season.