Brock Osweiler went from backup quarterback to $72 million man in his time with the Broncos. He'll return to the place where his NFL career started when his Houston Texans hit the road for a Monday Night Football showdown in Denver.
Osweiler earned a Super Bowl ring for his work filling in for an injured Peyton Manning last winter, but Denver declined to re-sign him when he became a free agent this spring. Houston, who had given away its spot in the playoffs thanks to a four-interception performance from Brian Hoyer in a 30-0 Wild Card blowout, didn't hesitate to swoop in on the young passer. The Texans signed the four-year veteran away with a four-year, $72 million contract in hopes he could dominate one of the NFL's weakest divisions.
Houston sits atop the AFC South, but it hasn't been a banner year for Osweiler. He's struggled to stand out on a Texans team that beats weak competition (Tennessee, Indianapolis, Chicago) but rolls over against the league's top performers. New England and Minnesota combined to paste them by an aggregate 58-13 score this season. Osweiler's struggles have played a key role in that.
The Arizona State product entered Week 7 ranked 29th among 31 qualified quarterbacks in terms of passer rating and yards per pass attempt. He's been inaccurate and ineffective behind center for one of the league's worst aerial attacks. That's put extra pressure on tailback Lamar Miller, who has slowed down after a hot start to the 2016 season. Opposing defenses know Osweiler isn't a threat, so they've been able to stack the box against Miller. The veteran rusher had been held to just 3.7 yards per carry in a 1-2 stretch before gashing a deficient Colts defense for 149 yards last week.
Good defenses can crack the Texans. That will come into play in Week 7.
Denver started the season as one of the NFL's hottest teams, but two straight losses halted the Broncos' early winning streak at four. The Broncos have been unsettled at quarterback without Osweiler or Manning behind center, but it didn't matter much early on. A game-changing defense helped earn big wins over Carolina, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay. However, history has shown those teams to be much weaker than anyone could have expected at the season's outset. They're a combined 7-16 on the season so far.
Beating Houston would be Denver's first victory over a team with a winning record, and the Broncos have the defense to do it. No team in the NFL has the ability to make quarterbacks more uncomfortable; their 21 sacks are the most in the league. Von Miller has continued his run as one of the world's best players on either side of the ball with 7.5 sacks this season.
He'll get the chance to add a few more when he lines up across from a familiar face Monday night. While Houston has done a solid job of protecting Osweiling in 2016, they haven't faced a defense as relentless as Denver's this fall.
How to watch Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Online Streaming: WatchESPN
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