The Houston Texans host the Denver Broncos in Week 16. This game looked a lot more appealing on paper in August, but the two teams have gone in completely opposite directions. The Broncos already clinched a playoff spot and are trying to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while the Texans have lost 12 straight games and fired their head coach.
Meet the Houston Texans
Houston will be starting all over again in the offseason. Gary Kubiak is gone, and Wade Phillips is just keeping the seat warm for the next head coach. The Texans' coaching search will ramp up in a couple weeks, but they still have some games to play.
The Case Keenum experiment has not gone well, and he will be out with a sprained thumb this week. So Houston is turning back to Matt Schaub, who might be playing his final games in a Texans uniform. The No. 1 selection in the 2014 NFL Draft is about the only consolation for a miserable season in Houston.
Meet the Denver Broncos
The Broncos had a chance to clinch home-field advantage last week, but were tripped up by the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night. Fortunately for them, the New England Patriots also lost, meaning Denver is still in the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed. The Broncos can clinch this week with a win and losses by the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. They hold the tiebreaker over the Chiefs, who have an identical 11-3 record, but Denver won't get a chance to rest starters. Wes Welker is still dealing with concussion symptoms and is unlikely to play this week.
Peyton Manning has all but wrapped up his MVP campaign after being named SI's Sportsman of the Year. He is only three touchdowns shy of tying Tom Brady's single-season record of 50, and is also on pace to break the passing yardage record held by Drew Brees.
Local Takes: Houston Texans
Brett Kollmann from Battle Red Blog is looking ahead to the draft already. He makes the case for picking Jadeveon Clowney.
As someone who gets to watch J.J. Watt prove how unlockable he is week in and week out, this soon to be ex-Gamecock is one of the few human beings on this planet who can replicate that complete and utter dominance. Rick Smith is already importing players from the Carolinas by the truck load, so he might as well add one more. Hell, putting two men who can't be blocked on the same line would be great if just for the reactions from fans of every other AFC team. Clowney and Watt...Watt and Clowney...no matter which way you say it, it still sounds insanely unfair.
Houston could use a little "unfair" right now.
Local Takes: Denver Broncos
Kyle Montgomery from Mile High Report looks at the Broncos' standing in the AFC playoff chase.
The Broncos' 20-27 loss to the Chargers in Week 15 wiped out any cushion in the division race they had earned against Kansas City. From here on in the regular season, it's not win or go home - it's win or lose home.... home field advantage in the playoffs, that is.
Remaining schedule: at Houston (2-12), at Oakland (4-10). Listen, no game in the NFL is easy, but these are should-win games for a top seed in the playoffs. Frankly, if the Broncos lose to either of these teams, they don't deserve to be the #1 seed in this conference. Get them coached up, Foxy.
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The Broncos are favored by 11.5 points, according to Odds Shark.
Houston at Tennessee, Dec. 29, 1 p.m. ET
Denver at Oakland, Dec. 29, 4:25 p.m. ET