In the sixth of Thin Air’s Rate Your Hate series, we consider the teams of the AFC South.
The AFC South is the NFL’s newest division, in both its very creation and among the teams that constitute it. Nonetheless, the Broncos have still had some considerable crossings with this division, both before and during its existence.
The main crossovers between the Broncos and Texans have started off the field. In 2006, Houston hired away offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and then director of pro personnel Rick Smith away from Denver. A decade later, the Texans went over the top to pry away Brock Osweiler away from Denver for $18 million a year and the first two years of his contract fully guaranteed. (While Denver reportedly offered $16 million per year, we don’t know the structure, and it’s likely it would have been nowhere near as generous.)
Kubiak and Mike Shanahan first met as opponents in the NFL in 2007–and it was the student who came out on top with a decisive 31-13 Texans victory. Jay Cutler was brutalized for five sacks (3.5 of them by #1 overall pick Mario Williams), and it was the first time in a long time that problems with the offensive line were beyond evident.
Late 2010 was the lowest the Broncos had been in a very long time, but it also featured a glimmer of fun: a 24-23 over Houston. What many people amazingly don’t know is that it was here, and not in 2011, that Tebowmania was born. With this season clearly the worst in recent Broncos history, interim head coach Eric Studesville threw Tebow out there to see what would happen. All He Did Was Win™ by coming back from o 17-0 deficit.
Kubiak chalked up another win against his former team in 2012, a 31-25 affair in Denver in the midst of a short people whispering doubt about whether Peyton Manning was truly back. By the time they met again in 2013, there was no doubt, as Manning broke the single season touchdown record in a closer-than-Wade Phillips-thinks 37-13 victory. 2016 was Osweiler’s first–and only–visit to Denver as a Texan, hyped up by ESPN in a Monday Night affair–and ended in a 27-9 Broncos domination.
The Broncos lead the series over the Texans 4-2.
After the merger the Broncos had a new conference foe from the NFL, and as the Baltimore Colts Denver dominated them with a 5-1 record–with the last one being in John Elway’s rookie season, a comeback from 19-0 in the 4th quarter to a 21-19 victory that would clinch a playoff berth for the Broncos. Elway’s domination of the Colts as a player would continue, putting up a 6-1 record from 1983 to 1993.
The Broncos would not meet the Colts again until 2002–and it became evidently clear that they were in Peyton’s world now. The Broncos went 2-7 against Manning, including a pair of really painful playoff losses. Even worse, the only two victories came just before those playoff losses. 2003 was a legitimate victory in a breakout party for Quentin Griffin subbing for an injured Clinton Portis, but in 2004 the Colts sat their starters and just used the game as reconnaissance for next week.
The Colts also proved meddlesome when Manning crossed over to Denver: they only went 1-3 during that time period, including another painful playoff loss. Last season’s win was much happier, though–let’s link to a clip from that.
The all time series with the Colts is tied 13-13, and will break that tie on Week 15 of 2017.
The Jaguars inflicted what may be the single most torturous loss upon the Broncos when one considers that at that time, they were still considered a franchise that couldn’t put together the ultimate run–and at the hands of a franchise that only existed for two seasons.
However, the Broncos got some immediate revenge when they thumped the Jaguars 42-17 en route to their first Super Bowl. They then followed that up with a 37-24 victory in 1998 that is most famous for Jason Elam being the first to match Tom Dempsey’s record of a 63 yard field goal.
After those Super Bowls were secure, the Jaguars went to work on rattling off a 5-1 record against the Broncos. The Broncos have won the last two, however, in the midst of a long abyss of losing in Jacksonville. This draws the all time series even at 6-6.
As the Tennessee Titans, the Broncos have done well against this team, going 4-2 overall. This includes a game in 2013 in which Matt Prater broke the logjam at 63 yards to set a new and current record at 64 yards.
However, as their prior history as the Houston Oilers, the Broncos actually have the longest history with this franchise among the members of the AFC South. And since the Oilers were also a founding AFL member, it means there’s plenty of pain directed toward Denver. Pre-merger, the Broncos went 4-14-1 against the Oilers. Post merger, against the Oilers the Broncos garnered a 9-7 edge. This includes three playoff games: a 13-7 loss in 1979, and a pair of wins in 1987 and 1991.
Including the Oilers history, the Titans are the only team in the AFC South that the Broncos have a losing record to, at 17-23-1.