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NFL : Thursday Night Football

NFL : Thursday Night Football

What bettors need to know: Broncos at Texans

Out in the cold?

Considered the Broncos’ top offensive weapons in preseason, running back Travis Henry and receiver Javon Walker may have become obsolete. Two of the most promising young talents in the league have stepped up their claims for a starting role, leaving the veterans out in the Denver cold.

In Sunday’s win over the Chiefs it was Brandon Marshall and Selvin Young who led the way for the Broncos. Marshall had 115 receiving yards and two TDs, while Young racked up 156 yards on the ground.

Henry saw extremely limited action in that game and Walker sat on the bench.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan defended Henry after Sunday’s game, pointing to his early-season success. “Everybody has kind of thrown Travis Henry under the bus,” he told the Denver Post. “He led the National Football League after four games, and averaged 5 yards per carry.”

“Travis Henry is still the same back he was after our first four or five games.”

But the fact remains that in a season plagued by niggling injuries and the threat of suspension, Henry has produced just 653 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Last season he had 1,211 yards and seven TDs.

Walker, meanwhile, has started just three games in an injury-ravaged campaign. He has had to sit and watch Marshall produce team-highs in receiving yards (1,029) and TDs (6).

The Broncos also handed receiver Brandon Stokley a three-year contract extension this week, adding to the speculation about Walker’s future.

Shanahan said that Henry “is going through a tough time” in his Monday press conference. He added that Walker is still limited in practice because of his knee. Expect Marshall and Young to feature strongly on Thursday night.

Schaub still sidelined

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub will likely miss his second straight game when the Broncos come to Houston this week. He suffered a dislocated shoulder in the Dec. 2 loss to Tennessee, forcing him to sit out his team’s win over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

"I don't see anything changing right now," Texans coach Gary Kubiak told reporters in his Monday press conference. "We're going to get a second opinion on Matt's shoulder here in the next 24 hours. I don't think anything has changed. I don't think he'll be available."

Backup Sage Rosenfels will make his second start of the season, having put together a solid afternoon against the Bucs. He threw three touchdown passes for 209 yards and no interceptions in the win.

"I've always believed in myself, but I'm just trying to help this team win, trying to find wins, and we've got three left and hopefully we can win as many as we can win," Rosenfels told reporters.

Houston may also have to do without running back Ron Dayne, who is nursing an ankle injury. Dayne was replaced by rookie Darius Walker at halftime on Sunday.

"I feel better that Walker got some plays under his belt this week," Kubiak added. "We'll see. He'll have to make a big improvement this week for us to have a chance to beat this football team."

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over

With three games left in the season, Denver still has a chance to make the playoffs. It may be a slender hope for the 6-7 Broncos, but the players are refusing to give up.

“We expected a lot more, but it’s not over,” first-year running back Andre Hall told the Longmont Times-Call. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

Receiver Brandon Marshall added: “It could be one of those years, but you never give up. We’re going to see who wants it and who’s playing and who loves football.”

The Broncos are two games behind the Chargers in the division, and two games out of the second wild-card spot. To have any chance at the playoffs, they have to win their final three games against Houston, San Diego and Minnesota.
They would also need the Chargers to lose two of their last three (including the game against Denver) to win the division title, or wild-card rivals Cleveland, Buffalo and Tennessee to all lose at least two of their last three games.

Last season, 9-7 was good enough to earn the Kansas City Chiefs the second wild-card berth in the AFC.


Denver and Houston have met five times in the last four seasons. The Broncos won on all five occasions, covering the spread in all but one of those contests. Three of the five meetings went under the total, including the last two.

The Broncos are 4-9 against the spread for the season and have covered just once in their last three. The Texans are 6-2 ATS in their last eight home games.

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Re: NFL : Thursday Night Football

No Dayne for Texans on Thursday

Texans coach Gary Kubiak says "the plan is to go with" Darius Walker and Adimchinobe Echemandu at running back on Thursday night.

Ron Dayne (ankle) couldn't take part in Monday's walkthrough and seems unlikely to be ready on a short week. Walker is likely to start against the Broncos and lose some early-down work to Echemandu, but get all the opportunities in pass-catching situations. Walker would be a solid flex play in points-per-reception leagues, but it's uncertain who'd get goal-line carries. Dec. 10 - 8:28 pm et

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Re: NFL : Thursday Night Football

Game Preview for Broncos vs TEXANS

(Sports Network) - For the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, the reminiscing will have to wait until after the game.

The two franchises, which will meet at Reliant Stadium in a Thursday night contest, will be focusing less on their undeniable familiarity than on winning a game that is crucial to the postseason chances of each.

Both the Broncos and Texans enter Week 15 at 6-7 and clinging to life in the AFC Wild Card race. Denver and Houston each sit two games back of Cleveland for the final playoff spot, and will also have to climb over 7-6 hopefuls Buffalo and Tennessee in order to realize their postseason dreams.

Denver, which is also chasing San Diego (8-5) at the top of the AFC West, remained in the hunt with a 41-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

Houston was a winner as well, taking down probable NFC South champion Tampa Bay, 28-14, though the win didn't help Gary Kubiak's club emerge from the AFC South basement.

The Texans must win their final three games to secure the first winning season in their six-year franchise history.

Kubiak came to Houston in 2006 after serving for 11 seasons as offensive coordinator under Mike Shanahan in Denver. The former backup quarterback to John Elway (1983-1991) helped tutor Elway when the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls following the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

Other ex-Broncos coaches currently on the Houston staff include defensive coordinator Richard Smith, defensive assistant Frank Bush, tight ends coach Brian Pariani, and offensive assistant Mike McDaniel. General manager Rick Smith, the one-time assistant G.M. of the Broncos, and quarterbacks coach Kyle Shanahan, the son of Mike Shanahan, are also currently employed by the Texans.

Houston players who once wore Broncos uniforms include running back Ron Dayne, tight end Jeb Putzier, tackle Ephraim Salaam, and defensive back Curome Cox.


The Broncos and Texans have met just once in a meaningful game, with Denver defeating Houston by a 31-13 count at Invesco Field at Mile High during the 2004 season.

The Broncos will be traveling to Houston for the first time since 1995, when they lost to the Oilers there, 42-33. Denver is 0-2 in Houston since last winning there in 1985.

Shanahan is 1-0 in his career against the Texans. Houston's Kubiak, who as mentioned, served as both a player and assistant coach with Denver, will be meeting both his former team and mentor for the first time as a head coach.


The Broncos come off their finest offensive performance of the season, a game in which Mike Shanahan's club piled up 453 yards. Quarterback Jay Cutler (2842 passing yards, 17 TD, 12 INT) completed 20-of-27 passes for 244 yards and a career-high four touchdowns passes against the Chiefs, with wideout Brandon Marshall (75 receptions, 6 TD) assisting Cutler to the tune of 10 catches, 115 yards, and two touchdowns. Marshall (shoulder) and fellow wideout Javon Walker (knee) are both listed as questionable for this week, and Brandon Stokley (40 receptions, 5 TD) would likely become Cutler's top target if both are out. In the backfield, rookie Selvin Young (569 rushing yards, 1 TD, 25 receptions) rushed for a season-best 156 yards on 17 carries last Sunday, and Travis Henry (653 rushing yards, 4 TD) rushed for his third TD in two weeks. Tight end Daniel Graham (23 receptions, 2 TD) had three receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown in his best outing to date as a Bronco. For the year, Denver is 13th in the league in passing offense (229.3 yards per game) and sixth in rushing offense (128.1 yards per game).

Houston enters Thursday's game ranked middle-of-the-pack in most league defensive categories, including 14th against the pass (217.2 yards per game) and 23rd against the run (118.2 yards per game). Still, defense was a major part of the team's win over Tampa Bay last week, as the Texans sacked Buccaneers quarterback Luke McCown five times and forced two key turnovers. The pass rush was led by the blossoming Mario Williams (46 tackles, 9.5 sacks), who enhanced his team-leading sack total by dragging McCown down once. Safety Will Demps (33 tackles) did a fine job on the back end for an injury- depleted secondary, notching eight tackles with a forced fumble and a recovery in his best game as a Texan. Linebacker Morlon Greenwood (88 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) paced the run-stopping effort, recording a game-high 13 tackles to go along with a pass deflection and a sack while limiting Tampa running back Earnest Graham to 61 ground yards. Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans (115 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and rookie tackle Amobi Akoye (28 tackles, 5.5 sacks) help lead the Houston run defense.


For a second straight week, the Texans will enter a key game with an all- reserve backfield. Quarterback Sage Rosenfels (1123 passing yards, 11 TD, 7 INT) will make his second straight start in place of the injured Matt Schaub, who might not return this year due to a shoulder injury, while undrafted rookie running back Darius Walker is expected to open in place of Ron Dayne (618 rushing yards, 3 TD, 16 receptions), who has an ankle problem. Rosenfels threw three touchdown passes and completed 27-of-36 pass attempts against the Bucs last week, moving to 2-0 as a starter this year. Rosenfels' TD passes went to wideouts Andre Johnson (41 receptions, 6 TD) and Kevin Walter (58 receptions, 3 TD) along with tight end Owen Daniels (57 receptions, 2 TD). Johnson continued his second-half magnificence by catching nine balls for 82 yards in the win. Walker, meanwhile carried 16 times for 46 yards and tallied six receptions for 35 yards in the first meaningful action of his career. Houston currently ranks ninth in NFL passing offense (246 yards per game), 24th in rushing offense (91.7 yards per game), and its 33 turnovers are second-most in the league behind only Baltimore's 35.

A Denver defense that had shown its weakness for much of the year was strong against the beleaguered Kansas City attack last Sunday, holding the Chiefs to 129 yards and seven first downs (five of which came on one drive) all day. The pass rush sacked Brodie Croyle five times and forced him to turn it over three, while the front seven stuffed running back Kolby Smith (13 carries, 12 yards) every time he touched the ball. End Elvis Dumervil (3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 5 tackles) and cornerback Champ Bailey (4 tackles, 1 INT) were among those around the football for much of the day. Dumervil's (33 tackles, 11 sacks, 1 INT) three-sack afternoon matched a career-high, and the Broncos moved to 5-1 when he has two or more sacks. Linebackers Nate Webster (77 tackles) and D.J. Williams (112 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack) combined for nine tackles to key the run-stopping effort. For the year, the Broncos are seventh in NFL passing defense (195.9 yards per game), 29th in rushing defense (138.8 yards per game), and have 23 sacks and takeaways.


The Broncos' most reliable fantasy starter is the wideout Marshall, who has averaged 83.8 yards and scored four touchdowns over his past four games. You should monitor Marshall's injury status in the hours leading up to the contest, and start him if he's active. Cutler and running backs Young and Henry are worth taking a look at, though none of the three have been remarkably consistent in the fantasy department. You might also consider taking a flier on the Denver defense, given the amount of turnovers the Texans have committed this season.

For Houston, Johnson is a must-start, and you might also think about opening with the rookie Walker against Denver's suspect run defense. As tight ends go, Daniels is among the league's most reliable, and has two touchdown catches in his last three outings. Rosenfels is a risky start due to his inexperience and the quality of the Broncos secondary, and the Texans' defense is not a first- rate playmaking unit. Kicker Kris Brown has been among the most accurate field goal men in the league this year.


The atmosphere should be electric at Reliant Stadium for the biggest game in Texans history to date, and the ties between the two teams should ratchet up the intensity as well. The temptation here is to side with a Houston team that has much to prove to the NFL-viewing public, but it's important to remember that the Texans are a battered team in a couple key areas, the backfield and secondary. For that reason, give the edge to the healthier and more experienced Broncos, who have been in more of these pressure-packed situations and will make the bigger plays when it matters.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Broncos 23, Texans 20

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Re: NFL : Thursday Night Football

Denver (6-7, 4-9 ATS) at Houston (6-7 SU and ATS)

Two teams clinging to faint playoff hopes get together when the Broncos travel to Reliant Stadium to face the Texans, who have never flirted with a .500 record this late in the season. It marks the first regular-season meeting between Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and Texans coach Gary Kubiak, Shanahan’s former longtime offensive coordinator.

Denver belted AFC West rival Kansas City 41-7 as a seven-point home chalk last week, ending an 0-2 SU and ATS skid while registering its most impressive win of the season. QB Jay Cutler (20 of 27, 244 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 0 fumbles) was flawless, and rookie RB Selvin Young rumbled for 156 yards on 17 carries (9.2 per carry). Denver held the Chiefs to just 129 total yards and won the turnover battle, 3-0.

Houston also halted a two-game SU and ATS slide Sunday by knocking off Tampa Bay 28-14 as a three-point home underdog. Andre Davis took the second-half kickoff 97 yards for a TD, while QB Sage Rosenfels, subbing for the injured Matt Schaub, was an efficient 27 of 36 for 209 yards and three TDs against the NFL’s fourth-ranked pass defense. The only negative for Rosenfels was two lost fumbles.

The straight-up winner is 11-2 ATS in Houston’s 13 games this year and 11-2 ATS for Denver (11-0 ATS in the last 11).

This is just the second regular-season meeting between these squads. The Broncos won the first 31-13 as a seven-point home chalk in 2004.

Despite the Broncos’ outburst last week, they remain one of the worst bets in the league over the past two seasons, going 9-20 ATS dating to the 2006 season opener. This season, Denver is on negative ATS runs of 2-6 in non-division games and 1-5 on the highway. On the bright side, the Broncos are 6-1 ATS in their last seven following a straight-up win of more than 14 points and 4-1 ATS in their last five against AFC opponents.

The Texans are mired in ATS slumps of 3-7 overall, 9-20 following a spread-cover, and 3-6 against the AFC. But they are 6-2 ATS in their last eight at Reliant Stadium, including 4-2 ATS this season. Also, with Rosenfels starting under center, the Texans are 2-0 SU and ATS.

The favorite is 4-0 ATS in Thursday night NFL games this season.

The over is 11-2 this season for Denver, including a current 6-0 run (4-0 on the road). Also, the over is on runs of 14-3 for the Broncos against the AFC and 8-1 for Houston in December.


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Texans, Broncos playing for keeps

As the ground stiffens and the temperature drops, the list of meaningful NFL games dwindles. The playoffs are less than a month away and a long list of clubs have only pride left to play for.

The Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are both two games back in the chase for the final AFC wild-card slot. Thursday’s matchup is an elimination game and the winner would remain a long shot to sneak into the playoffs.

“Motivation always plays a factor this time of the year,” says Mike Seba, senior oddsmaker with Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “There are some teams – like Atlanta – that have already given up. I don’t see either the Broncos or the Texans as one of these teams. It’s pretty much a playoff game for both sides.”

Denver fans will remember Houston head coach Gary Kubiak was an assistant with the Broncos for 10 years before joining the Texans. And while Kubiak and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan are still good friends, that doesn’t mean they’re hoping the game will end in a tie.

“I think (Kubiak) would like to get a win against his old team, and we’d like to help him do that,” Texans tight end Owen Daniels told the Houston Chronicle. “I’m sure that’ll be in the back of our minds when we go out there.”

Facing a familiar foe is not the only reason Kubiak’s troops should have an extra bounce in their step this week. The primetime matchup marks just the fourth time the Texans’ franchise has played in a stand-alone game.

“Playing on Thursday night is something new for this team,” Kubiak said. “The players are looking forward to it. They were very attentive (during Monday’s practice). We need two more days like this, and we’ll be ready to go.”

A win on the national stage over Denver would be a huge step for the Texans. The organization would be thrilled with an 8-8 season even if that mark falls short the playoffs. Houston has never finished with more than seven wins in franchise history.

“We have a chance to do something we’ve never done, and it’s important that we do it,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “This is our shot, and we have to take full advantage of it.”

Oddsmakers opened with the Texans as –1 ½-point favorites but the line was moving Denver’s way as of Wednesday afternoon.

Covers Expert Scott Rickenbach says he uses motivation in his handicapping late in the season but doesn’t believe the Texans will have the edge in this department.

“I feel that with a young quarterback at the helm (Jay Cutler), the Broncos are still hungry,” Rickenbach says. “They want to build momentum for next season.”

Cutler enjoyed his finest game as a pro last weekend. The former Vanderbilt standout threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions during a 41-7 romp of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Texans’ No. 1 quarterback will not be on the field dueling with Cutler. Matt Schaub will miss his second consecutive game but Houston feels it has a steady understudy in Sage Rosenfels. The backup is 2-0 in his starts this season.

Rosenfels’ strong play has changed oddsmakers’ perspective on Houston’ quarterback situation. John Avello, director of race and sports operations for Wynn Las Vegas, said back in Week 8 that he would move his line by three points depending on Schaub’s health. Schaub ended up playing but the Texans still lost 35-10 to San Diego.

Seba rates Schaub’s value “maybe a half point” to the pointspread this week.

Rosenfels will want to win Thursday’s game for his coach, but clearly has personal reasons as well. A strong game could elevate his status with the club next season.

The fun begins Thursday at 9:15 p.m. ET on NFL Network.

Notes – Some football fans will be happy to know Bryant Gumble will not be calling the play-by-play. Gumble has a sore throat and will be replaced in the booth by Tom Hammond.

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Three key mismatches in Broncos-Texans game

Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall vs. Texans’ secondary

Brandon Marshall is developing into one of the best receivers in the NFL. The second-year Broncos star has looked unstoppable recently and should punish the Texans’ secondary this week.

Marshall has 279 receiving yards and three touchdowns in his last three games and has become quarterback Jay Cutler’s favorite target. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Marshall is dominant in the air, but also has the power and speed to rip through defenses on the run.

The 22-year-old ranks eighth in the league among receivers with 1,029 yards and six TDs.

The Texans have given up 767 yards in the air and four receiving TDs in their last three contests, two of which were losses.

Texans defensive end Mario Williams vs. Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler

Mario Williams is playing so well that his teammates believe he is a lock to make the Pro Bowl. The defensive end, who has 9.5 sacks this season, can further strengthen his case for the honor with a big performance against Denver and Jay Cutler.

The second-year pro has recorded at least one sack in four straight games and ranks ninth overall in the league. Of all the players with four or more sacks, Williams is the only one who also has at least 40 tackles.

He’ll be licking his chops at Thursday’s opposition. The Broncos have allowed their quarterback to be sacked at least once each game this season, for a total of 23 times in 13 contests.

Broncos’ turnovers gained vs. Texans’ turnovers lost

If the Texans learned to take care of the football they would have a much better record than their current 6-7. They are the NFL’s worst offenders for turning over the ball, a weakness the Broncos will be eager to expose.

Houston has given away 31 turnovers this season –16 intercepted passes and 15 fumbles.

Denver, meanwhile, has forced opponents to cough up the ball on 22 occasions, 11 of those interceptions. Cornerback Dre Bly leads the way with 4 INTs this season. He could make life difficult for Houston’s backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who is expected to start in place of the injured Matt Schaub.

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Re: NFL : Thursday Night Football

Broncos at Texans
By Brian Edwards

With their slim respective playoff hopes on the line, Houston and Denver will collide tonight at Reliant Stadium. Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the Texans as 1½-point home favorites with a total of 46.

However, as of early this morning, most spots had the Broncos installed as one-point ‘chalk’ with a 47-point tally. Denver is minus 120 on the money line, while Houston is an even-money bet.

Denver (6-7 straight up, 4-9 against the spread) has been horrible on the road this season, compiling a 2-4 SU record to go with a 1-5 spread mark. On the flip side, Houston (6-7 SU, 6-7 ATS) has been excellent at home, posting a 4-2 record both SU and ATS.

Mike Shanahan’s squad is off its best performance of the year, dealing out a 41-7 clubbing to Kansas City as a seven-point favorite. Jay Cutler threw for 244 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes. Also, Selvin Young rushed for a career-best 156 yards on just 17 carries.

Brandon Marshall hauled in a pair of TD grabs from Cutler, while Elvis Dumervil led the defense with three sacks and a forced fumble.

As for Houston, it collected a 28-14 home win over Tampa Bay as a three-point underdog. In the interest of full disclosure, we should point out that the Bucs were without quarterback Jeff Garcia.

But the Texans were also minus their starting QB, Matt Schaub. Nevertheless, Sage Rosenfels filled in admirably with three TD passes. For the season, Rosenfels has an 11/7 touchdown-interception ratio.

Life is a lot easier for Houston QBs when wide receiver Andre Johnson is in the lineup. He had nine reception for 82 yards and one TD last week. While Houston has improved health with Johnson -- the team's best player -- back in the lineup, the team is depleted at the running back position. Ron Dayne (618 rushing yards, 3 TDs) is listed as "doubtful" with an ankle injury.

"The Texans have no running backs right now," VI handicapper Bill Marzano said. "They are starting Darius Walker this week, the rookie out of Notre Dame. Are you kidding me?"

Marzano has plays on both the side and total in his pick pack for tonight. For the season, he has a 65-52 record, leading "dime players" to $7,750 of profit. Marzano has the sixth-best NFL money total on VI.

Denver WR Javon Walker missed his eighth game last week, but he is expected to give it a go at Houston. WR Brandon Stokley is also listed as “questionable,” but gamblers should anticipate his presence nonetheless.

Cutler has had his ups and downs during his second season in the NFL. The absence of Walker has hurt, but the Vandy product has demonstrated steady improvement in his leadership and production. For the year, Cutler has connected on 64 percent of his throws for 2,842 yards, with a 17/12 TD-INT ratio.

The ‘over’ has been a big-time money maker in Denver games this season, cashing tickets at an 11-2 clip. The ‘over’ is 5-1 for the Broncos on the road. Meanwhile, the ‘over’ is 7-5-1 overall for the Texans, 3-3 in their home outings.

Houston and Denver are both two games back of Cleveland for the sixth and final wild-card slot in the AFC. The Broncos are still alive in the AFC West, trailing San Diego by two games. They go on the road to face the Chargers next week.

Once again, the telecast is chafe city for most bettors. The NFL Network will have the broadcast at 8:15 p.m. Eastern.

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Re: NFL : Thursday Night Football

Thursday NFL Gameday

Week 15 in the NFL kicks off early on Thursday when the Denver Broncos head to Houston to face the Texans. Both the Broncos and the Texans sport a 6-7 record, so the loser of this game will have their slim playoff chances squashed.

The Broncos are coming off a 41-7 drubbing of Kansas City as a 7.5-point favorite. Jay Cutler had his best game of the season in the win, as he completed 20-of-27 passes for 244 yards with four touchdowns. Brandon Marshall led all receivers with 10 receptions for 115 yards with a pair of touchdowns, while Brandon Stokley and Daniel Graham each caught a TD pass.

The Denver passing attack could become even more dangerous this week with speedy receiver Javon Walker possibly returning from a knee injury. The Broncos also had success on the ground last week with Selvin Young rushing for a career-high 156 yards on 17 carries and Travis Henry rushing for 24 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. On defense the Broncos limited the Chiefs to only 129 yards while forcing three turnovers. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil also had three sacks and now leads Denver with 11 on the season.

Houston pulled of an upset last week when they knocked off Tampa Bay 28-14 as a 3-point underdog. Backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels filled in for injured starter Matt Schaub and impressed while completing 27-of-36 passes for 209 yards with three touchdowns. Rosenfels will get the start again this week with Schaub still sidelined with a shoulder injury. Andre Johnson caught nine passes for 82 yards with a touchdown and Kevin Walter hauled in five passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Former No. 1 pick Mario Williams recorded his team-leading 9.5th sack of the season in the win.

The Broncos and Texans have only met up once before back in 2004. Denver was a 7-point home favorite in that game and easily covered the spread in a 31-13 win. In the Thursday night game, Denver is listed as a slim 1-point road favorite.


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