SERIES HISTORY: 6th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 3-2. Broncos have won two of three at home. Most historic meeting between these two teams was on Dec. 26, 2010, when Tim Tebow led the Broncos back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to a 24-23 win in his second career start.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Once upon a time -- precisely 11 months ago -- Brock Osweiler burst onto the scene in his first start with the Denver Broncos at Chicago and flashed the kind of promise that led the franchise to believe he could be the QB of the future.
Cash, and the belief by the Houston Texans that Osweiler was the franchise passer owner Bob McNair coveted, led him into a free agency union that didn't involve the Broncos. That sets the stage for Monday's amicable reunion.
Osweiler stares down the barrel at a Denver defense looking to end a two-game losing streak, but inconsistent play -- perhaps the biggest knock on the 6-foot-8 gunslinger in free agency -- is haunting Houston's offense. Osweiler has eight interceptions, has been sacked 12 times and completed only 59 percent of his passes in the first six games. Considering the Broncos know how to stop Osweiler, an extra dose of RB Lamar Miller is likely.
Denver's offensive woes can be traced several directions, but noteworthy in this matchup is a scuffling running game averaging 3.8 yards per carry (compared to 4.2 last season).
The Texans are not entirely equipped to match personnel in the secondary, especially with CB Kevin Johnson (broken foot) hitting IR this week. But without the benefit of balance, QB Trevor Siemian hasn't been able to keep that fire lit.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Broncos running backs vs. Texans front seven. Only three teams are allowing more rushing yardage per game than the 126.3 surrendered by the Texans so far this season, and without J.J. Watt to contend with, the Texans could be just what the Broncos' ailing ground game needs. After a strong start in Weeks 1 and 2, the Broncos have averaged just 77.3 rushing yards per game and 3.25 yards per carry, as injuries on the offensive line and an inability to exploit holes when they are created has cost the Broncos.
--Broncos OLBs Von Miller and Shane Ray vs. Texans QB Brock Osweiler. Through the ups and downs of the season to date, the Broncos' edge rushers have remained a strength, with Miller and Ray combining for 11.5 of the team's 21 sacks through six games. Osweiler has been sacked just once every 19.9 pass plays, a marked improvement from his sack rate of one every 13.0 pass plays last season with the Broncos.
Bronco C Matt Paradis. The anchor on an offensive line that has struggled to find consistency while dealing with an injury to right tackle Donald Stephenson and the struggles of second-year left guard Max Garcia. Paradis has helped steady Trevor Siemian before the snap and has also been durable, playing every snap since the start of the 2015 regular season.
Houston -- Out: S Quintin Demps (calf), CB Kevin Johnson (foot), LB Brian Peters (quadriceps), RB Jonathan Grimes (ankle). Denver -- Out: LB DeMarcus Ware (forearm). Questionable: WR Cody Latimer (concussion), T Russell Okung (concussion).
To fill Kevin Johnson's place on the roster, Houston activated safely Lonnie Ballentine from the physically unable to perform list. Ballentine has been sidelined since suffering a knee injury last season.
For the Broncos, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware will miss his fifth consecutive game due to a fractured forearm.
Ware was injured in a Week 2 victory over Indianapolis and has not practiced since.
Denver is still waiting to see on the availability of left tackle Russell Okung and wide receiver Cody Latimer, who are in the league's concussion protocol.
Both players are scheduled for a final league-mandated examination in order to be cleared to play.
The Broncos have a league-worst minus-28 scoring differential in the first quarter. ... Broncos CB Aqib Talib has 33 career interceptions for the most of any cornerback since he entered the league in 2008.
Denver will get the best Brock Osweiler can offer with a real-life prove-it plot in play, but the Broncos' defense holds the edge in the secondary and with a pass rush planning to deliver its own message on "Monday Night Football."
OUR PICK: Broncos, 27-16.