2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Broncos swear they're not taking Texans lightly

    2013-12-19 17:45

(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.)
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Teams swear they don't look at their opponents' records. Rankings are another story.

By that measure, the Denver Broncos see one of the league's top teams in the Houston Texans, who have lost their last dozen games and plenty of their best players to injuries.

The Texans (2-12) own the NFL's 11th-best offense and fourth-best defense, and they're ranked second against the pass.

That puts them right up there with the Broncos (11-3) and Seattle Seahawks (12-2), the two teams that oddsmakers favor to reach the Super Bowl.

''I think they are a great team,'' Broncos linebacker Von Miller insisted.

Don't laugh, Peyton Manning said.

Eight of Houston's losses were by a touchdown or less.

''We don't look at records, we look at the tape,'' said Manning. ''On offense, we see a good defense. We see some outstanding players when you're talking about guys like (Antonio) Smith and (J.J.) Watt, guys that can dominate a football game.''

With Matt Schaub starting for the first time since Oct. 13 in place of injured Case Keenum, Denver's defenders see the same quarterback who threw four touchdown passes in Houston's win over the Broncos last season.

A lot has changed since then.

Manning found his footing, going 23-5 since that 31-25 loss on Sept. 23, 2012. He's four TD passes shy of breaking Tom Brady's single-season record of 50 and is favored to win his fifth MVP award with the Broncos once again jockeying for prime playoff position.

Schaub has been benched, booed at home and enters Sunday's game without four members of his supporting cast who helped him win at Denver last year. Kevin Walker was cut in the offseason, and Arian Foster, Owen Daniels and Ben Tate are all on IR.

In his last cameo appearance at home, against Oakland a month ago, Schaub was booed so loudly that the Texans had to use a silent count on some snaps.

The Broncos simply see a good team that's had a run of bad luck.

''We're gearing up for a challenge, a good football team that's maybe had a rough year, but still a very talented football team that's very capable,'' Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said.

Watt's sacks have gone down from 20 1/2 last season to 9 1/2 this year, but the Broncos contend this is another case where the numbers don't tell the whole story.

''I'm looking at 42 quarterback hits,'' Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. ''The sack numbers are irrelevant because he makes teams get rid of the ball quicker. ... I don't know how he gets there so quickly. I've never seen anything like it.''

The Broncos are favored by double digits Sunday, but then again they were big favorites last Thursday night against San Diego and lost 27-20 to the Chargers at home.

''That loss kind of woke us up,'' Miller said. ''It's unfortunate that we had to have a loss to get that sense of urgency but I think the sense of urgency is getting back. We know what we can do. We've been preaching all year what type of team that we have and what we're capable of. It's about that time for us to start putting it out there on the field.''

The Broncos still own the tiebreaker over the Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) in the AFC West but they can ill afford another slip-up. There was a decidedly different tone at practice after their truncated week leading up to kickoff on the final Thursday night game of the season.

''I think we do better with a full week of practice,'' Manning said.

And after losses.

After their last four defeats in the regular season, the Broncos have won by an average of 18 points the following week.

Notes: Coach John Fox said Wes Welker (concussion) has been running in the weight room this week and ''he's feeling better every day.'' ... DE Derek Wolfe also has been working out to regain his strength and stamina. He suffered seizure-like symptoms on Nov. 29. ... It looks like CB Champ Bailey will play in the nickel and dime packages Sunday. He's missed a career-high 11 games with a nagging foot injury but said Thursday he isn't thinking about retirement. ''Oh no,'' he said laughing. ''I'm thinking about winning on Sunday.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

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The San Francisco 49ers have declared OT Anthony Davis, WR Bruce Ellington, DL Glenn Dorsey, QB Josh X. Johnson, WR Quinton Patton, CB Tramaine Brock, TE Vance McDonald inactive for Week 13.

Allen BradfordNov 27 07:12p

The Seattle Seahawks have declared LB Allen Bradford, TE Cooper Helfet, CB Jeremy Lane, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, C Max Unger, TE Rashaun Allen, DL Travian Robertson inactive for Week 13.

Tony HillsNov 27 03:22p

The Dallas Cowboys have declared LB Dekoda Watson, OG Donald Hawkins, QB Dustin Vaughan, FS Jeff Heath, DL Joshua Brent, OT Tony Hills, CB Tyler Patmon inactive for Week 13.

Taylor HartNov 27 03:12p

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared OT Dennis Kelly, DB Jaylen Watkins, WR Jeff Maehl, OG Julian Vandervelde, QB Nick Foles, CB Rashad Carmichael, DE Taylor Hart inactive for Week 13.

Kyle FullerNov 27 11:32a

Chicago Bears CB Kyle Fuller (knee) will play in the team's Week 13 game against the Detroit Lions. Fuller had been questionable during the week.

Lance BriggsNov 27 11:22a

The Chicago Bears have declared WR Chris X. Williams, LB Darryl Sharpton, OT Eben Britton, DL Jeremiah Ratliff, LB Lance Briggs, CB Terrance Mitchell, DL Trevor Scott inactive for Week Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 11:12a

The Detroit Lions have declared QB Kellen Moore, OG Larry Warford, DE Larry Webster, DL Nick Fairley, RB Reggie Bush, OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles inactive for Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 11:12a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is inactive Thursday, Nov. 27, for Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 10:12a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is out for Week 13 Thursday, Nov. 27. His ankle isn't responding well enough, but the hope is to return for Week 14.

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Jimmy StatenNov 26 09:43p

The Seattle Seahawks signed free-agent DT Jimmy Staten (Seahawks) to their practice squad Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also released OT Andrew McDonald from their practice squad.

Marcus ThigpenNov 26 09:03p

The Buffalo Bills claimed WR Marcus Thigpen off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also waived DE Bryan Johnson.

Richard GordonNov 26 09:03p

The Tennessee Titans waived TE Richard Gordon Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 08:33p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Dwayne AllenNov 26 07:33p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

C. PattersonNov 26 06:23p

Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jerick McKinnonNov 26 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Brandon LaFellNov 26 06:03p

New England Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jace AmaroNov 26 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (head) is not expected to play in Week 13, because he is going through the concussion protocol.

Reggie BushNov 26 04:53p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle, back) was limited in practice for the third straight day Wednesday, Nov. 26, and is questionable for Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.

Jordan CameronNov 26 04:43p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) remains day-to-day, but the team is looking for him to practice symptom-free this week, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Jordan ReedNov 26 04:13p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

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Phil LoadholtNov 26 12:33p

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