ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When you're in your 15th NFL season and have been named to 12 Pro Bowls as a guy covering the league's best wide receivers, people will often ask you to rank players, to add some perspective to what has happened along the way.
So while it's been strange year for both -- Johnson has 99 catches and 1,295 yards for a team that's won just two games while Bailey has played in just three games because of a left foot injury -- the two will likely find themselves matched up against each other once again Sunday.
Asked about the prospect of facing Johnson this weekend, Bailey said:
“Bring you're A-Game, first of all. He's still one of the best in the game. People don't talk about him as much because they're not winning right now. But he's one of the best, hands down. He shows up on the tape every week.”
Bailey has played just one full game this season -- the Broncos Nov. 24 win over Jacksonville -- and played just 30 snaps in the team's Dec. 1 game in Kansas City before, after talking to defensive backs coach Cory Undlin, Bailey pulled himself out of the game. The Broncos dialed Bailey back some since, naming him a game day inactive in each of the last two games and limiting his participation in several practices.
But Bailey has practiced fully throughout this week, pronounced himself “ready to go'' and that likely means plenty of work when the Broncos go into the nickel and dime packages. Chris Harris Jr. and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are expected to play as the two cornerbacks in the base defense. And in that scenario if the Broncos wanted to match a player on Johnson it would likely be Rodgers-Cromartie on Johnson because of Rodgers-Cromartie's speed and reach.
But when the Texans go to their three-wide receiver set and the Broncos answer with more defensive backs, Bailey would be in the mix. And since the Texans move Johnson all over the formation -- he has played in an outside position as well as in the slot on both sides of the formation at different points this season -- there will be times when the two veterans are once again squared off against each other.
Bailey would likely work out of the slot at times and those matchups could take place on the inside. Though Harris has routinely been the player the Broncos play in the slot in recent seasons, Bailey has played there many times in his career, especially when the Broncos have matched him on a receiver no matter where the receiver lined up or when Bailey was asked to cover a tight end like Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez.
With Matt Schaub back in the lineup as the Texans quarterback, Johnson is expected to be busy Sunday. He has, by far, been the Texans' most targeted receiver, with 159 passes having been thrown his way in 14 games.
In Schaub's six starts earlier this season Johnson had games where he was targeted 16, 13, 12 and 10 times in those six games. Johnson had 110 yards receiving against the Seahawks' physical secondary in September and had 121 yards receiving against the Patriots earlier this month.