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Denver Broncos clinch AFC West with win over Texans

Appropriately enough, the Denver Broncos clinched the AFC West and a first-round bye on the strength of Peyton Manning's record-setting arm.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air Peyton Manning's record-setting performance in the Denver Broncos' 37-13 victory over the Houston Texans from Week 16 on Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET. It will re-air as an "NFL Replay Game Of The Week Special" -- with Peyton Manning wired for sound by NFL Films -- on Thursday, Dec. 26 at 9 p.m. ET.

Manning gutted the Houston Texans secondary for 400 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-13 victory, breaking Tom Brady's single-season record with his 51st passing touchdown.

Here's what else we learned in Sunday's game:

  1. The news wasn't all positive for the Broncos. Pass rusher Von Miller, the second-most valuable player on the roster, exited with a knee injury and quickly was ruled out for the game. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport confirmed Miller will undergo tests on Monday. There's fear that the injury is significant, per The Denver Post. The Broncos did go 6-0 in Miller's early-season absence, but that was with key defensive players, such as Derek Wolfe, Kevin Vickerson, Wesley Woodyard and Rahim Moore, healthy.
  1. The Broncos already were the first team in NFL history to feature four different players with at least 10 touchdowns (Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Knowshon Moreno). With Eric Decker's two scores Sunday, they now have five players in double digits. It's indicative not just of their offensive firepower, but also of the most balanced, pick-your-poison aerial attack in history.

  1. Manning's box score is slightly misleading in that he missed safety-blanket Welker for a second consecutive game. The Broncos couldn't move the ball in the third quarter, while Manning took too many hits from the J.J. Watt-led Texans defensive front.
  1. One first-half play perfectly encapsulated Matt Schaub's struggles this season. Afforded plenty of time to throw on a boot-action call, Schaub threw high to put his fullback in danger of a big hit on a play that would have gone for three years had the pass been accurate. According to Pro Football Focus' metric, Schaub has averaged a ridiculously low 5.8 yards per attempt on play action this year. For comparison's sake, Manning leads the NFL at 12.2 while Case Keenum is sixth at 9.9. Schaub has reached the visor-and-clipboard stage of his career.
  1. Without Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the Texans had no running game. Of course, they had no passing game, either. But one bright spot was Andre Johnson tying the NFL record for most seasons (five) with 100 receptions. Johnson matched Welker's mark.
  1. Miller's injury overshadowed the return of another weapon, explosive kick returner Trindon Holliday, who had a 49-yard punt return called back by a holding penalty.
  1. If the Patriots lose at Baltimore, the Broncos have nothing to play for in Week 17 at Oakland. If New England wins, Denver still will have to win out to lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Expect a cautious approach toward Welker's (concussion) return, regardless. Manning needs 265 yards to break Drew Brees' single-season record. The Broncos also need 18 points to break the 2007 Patriots' scoring record.

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