The Houston Texans and Denver Broncos are in very different places in their footballing life.
The Texans are 5-3 and atop of the AFC South, Bill O’Brien’s team are rising and taking advantage of Jacksonville and Tennessee — both playoff teams in 2017 — falling back to the pack.
Meanwhile, Vance Joseph’s Broncos are clinging onto any relevancy and a chance at a wildcard spot with a 3-5 record through the first eight weeks of the 2018 season.
The storyline going into this game will be the immediate return of Demaryius Thomas to Mile High, days after he was traded for a fourth-round pick.
It’s unusual for a traded player to play his former team not one week after being traded, but here we are.
Thomas ranks second in team history for receiving yards with 9,055 and third for catches with 665, just 10 behind Shannon Sharpe.
The Georgia Tech alum and the Broncos’ 2010 first-round pick is a sure-fire Ring of Famer and has essentially already been announced as such on his way out.
He’s guaranteed to get a great reaction from Broncos Country on Sunday but, behind the scenes in Houston, we’d be less thrilled than what he’s probably been up to.
Thomas has intimate knowledge of the Broncos playbook, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses, and he’s almost certainly shared those details with the Texans.
The Texans receivers and Thomas are in a great position this week against a Broncos defense missing three key starters. Cornerback Bradley Roby, safety Darian Stewart, and inside linebacker Brandon Marshall have all been declared out.
Chris Harris Jr will almost definitely match up across from DeAndre Hopkins leaving Thomas with a plus matchup whether that’s against Tramaine Brock, Adam Jones or Isaac Yiadom. Don’t be surprised if Thomas gets into the end zone on Sunday. It’ll be a strange feeling for all involved.
As for the Broncos offense, any member of Broncos Country watching the game may be in for a long day, or night if you’re in Europe.
With Royce Freeman still questionable, and not getting in a full practice this week, expect to see increased playing time for Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Phillip Lindsay.
Lindsay is averaging over 5.7 yards a
Another rookie with a chance to shine on Sunday will be Courtland Sutton. Despite being third on the depth chart until this week, Sutton has been garnering a large percentage of the team’s downfield targets.
He currently ranks seventh in the NFL for average yards per reception with 18.5 and is ready to break out; the team wouldn’t have traded Thomas if they didn’t think so too.
The Broncos have a chance to succeed on Sunday. Don’t be surprised if we see some standout individual performances. Ultimately, however, the Texans defensive line will be too much for the Broncos offense to handle.
With a loss, the Broncos will fall to 3-6 with a coaching change looming large over the bye week.
Houston Texans 26-16 Denver Broncos
For even more build-up to the game,
You can watch the Broncos on NFL Game Pass Europe from on 21:05 GMT on Sunday night.