I believe it was the Counting Crows who lamented via song about a "long December," and as we watch the Houston Texans' 2017 season crumble into dust before our very eyes, you wonder if perhaps the Crows had a crystal ball and were writing about our hometown football team. (Admittedly, that would be very random and slightly creepy if they were, but hey, you never know!)
I bring this up because
I am running out of ways to lead into articles about the Houston Texans December will be here soon, and this December will feel VERY different for Texan fans and Bill O'Brien. In his first three seasons as the head coach, O'Brien has generally had his team trending upward toward their inevitable 9-7 record.
In fact, in the final five games of each of his three full seasons thus far, O'Brien has accumulated a 10-5 overall record, and a sparking 8-2 record in the AFC South. Needless to say, expectations have been altered for the home stretch this season with Tom Savage fumbling around at quarterback.
We aren't down to those final five games yet, but we will be soon. For now, the Arizona Cardinals, who have quarterback problems of their own (Blaine Gabbert!), come to town for a day that will likely be remembered more for halftime than the actual game itself. Let's find four things to watch for, shall we?
4. Rejuvenated Peterson
The Cardinals picked up Adrian Peterson in a trade with the Saints four games ago, and it's actually worked out fantastically for both sides. The Saints have become one of the best teams in football, while Peterson appears to have been a bit rejuvenated. In four games for Arizona, Peterson has had two monster games (134 yards versus Tampa Bay and 159 yards versus San Francisco) and two duds (21 yards against the Rams and 29 yards against the Chargers). The performances have flip flopped from good to bad each week, which is bad news for the Texans, as that Seahawk stinker was Peterson's last game. Peterson also has a few extra days rest since the Cards last played on Thursday, November 9.
3. Bad Quarterbacking Clinic
If you watch NFL football for high-flying games where surgical quarterbacks are dissecting teams back and forth, where the team who has the ball last wins the game, well, I'd find another stadium on Sunday, if I were you. Now, if you watch professional football to see two quarterbacks making horrible decisions and strip-sack-fumbling their teams into NFL oblivion, then you've come to the right place! It's GABBERT... it's SAVAGE! Only on FOX!!! (Somehow, i will need to cobble together a postgame show for this mess.)
Side bar — I had a few of you ask me for a WWE analogy for this quarterback battle. This is the best I could do....
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2. Special teams
Honestly, I am trying to find non-Andre Johnson reasons to watch this game, and I'm so desperate that I went to Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings just to find out if there is anything that the Cardinals are exceptionally terrible at. (To be clear, they are pretty terrible at a lot of things, but I needed EXCEPTIONALLY terrible!) Good news! It turns out that they are 32nd in adjusted DVOA for special teams! So the Cardinals special teams stink! WHOOPY DOOPY!! Texans gonna make some hay with Shane Lechler and Ka'imi Fairbairn, bitches! Yeeeeahhh boyeeee!! Here comes Bruce Ellington and Chris Thompson in the return game, Cards Fan!! (You can smell my desperation, I know....)
1. Ceremonious Halftime
Screw it, THIS is the reason people are keeping their tickets for this game — the induction of Andre Lamont Johnson into the Texans' Ring of Honor, which at the point of induction will exist solely to house the name of "Andre Lamont Johnson." He is the first to be inducted, and I have no idea who will be the next (although it probably rhymes with "Shmay Shmay Shmatt"), but this I do know — the Texans might want to come up with another inductee for the December 10 home game against San Francisco. That might be the only way to half fill NRG Stadium by then.
SPREAD: Cardinals -1
PREDICTION: Cardinals 20, Texans 13
RECORD: 7-2 SU, 5-4 ATS
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.