1. Derek Newton
Newton has done an admirable job in weeks 1 and 2, keeping Cameron Wake and Jeremy Mincey off Matt Schaub’s back. Those were just warm ups though. This week in Denver, the Texans face one of the best outside rushing combos in the NFL in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
Both the Broncos outside linebackers went to the Pro Bowl last year after combining for 20 sacks between them. If Newton isn’t up to the test, it could be a long day for Matt Schaub and the Texans.
2. Arian Foster
There’s nothing that would keep Matt Schaub safer than a strong running game. And the man who can make that happen is the Texans own Pro Bowl running back, Arian Foster.
The problem is, teams don’t just run roughshod over the Broncos. The Steelers and Falcons, Denver’s first two opponents, have combined for just 132 rushing yards against the Broncos. A big day from Foster would take the lightning out of the Broncos pass rush and keep the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands.
3. Kareem Jackson
If there’s one thing Peyton Manning does well, it’s identifying the weak link in an opposing team’s secondary. Look for him to put a bullseye on Jackson’s back this weekend, trying to exploit the third year cornerback’s shortcomings early and often.
Jackson has shown improvements over the last two years. But he’s in for a test in Denver Sunday. It will be interesting to see if the Texans line up Jonathan Joseph on the Broncos #1 receiver, Demaryius Thomas. If so, then Jackson will draw Eric Decker more often than not. While Decker doesn’t have the stats that Thomas does so far this season, he was Peyton’s favorite target in the preseason. And if Decker and Manning start clicking Sunday afternoon, it could be a rough day for Jackson and company.