On Sunday, the Houston Texans will look to notch their third win in a row, with the Arizona Cardinals coming to town. The Cardinals are, by record (2-8 on the season), one of the worst teams in the NFL, and yet the spread on the game has hovered around a meager four or five points all week, with the Texans obviously favored.
Keep in mind, these two teams were supposed to be mirror images of one another. When the Texans hipped off their first round pick to the Cardinals to move up and grab Will Anderson in the draft, the experts around the league thought the Cardinals would have the top two picks in 2024, their own pick and the Texans' pick.
The Cardinals have largely held up their end of that bargain, as their 2-8 record has them near the bottom of the league. The Texans are 5-4, and would be in the playoffs, if the season ended today. So what are the things to watch for, as the Texans try for their first three game winning streak wince their NINE game winning streak in 2018? Let's take a look:
4. Let down avoidance
The Texans have had two weeks to hear the national media talk about how they are the new playoff dark horse in the NFL. C.J. Stroud has basically clinched the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and now the pundits are debating if he is the league's Most Valuable Player. The Texans are hovering around 10th or 11th in most of the subjective power rankings out there. In other words, with a 2-8 NFC team coming to town, human nature makes it a distinct possibility that the Texans take their eye off the ball here. DeMeco Ryans can't let that happen.
3. Kyler Murray
Now, here's the thing about the Cardinals' 2-8 record — most of it was amassed with Josh Dobbs or Clayton Tune at quarterback.. Last week, their franchise QB, Kyler Murray, returned from a torn ACL he suffered last season, and his improv playmaking was the catalyst in a 25-23 upset over the Falcons. THIS version of the Cardinals, the one with Murray under center, is 1-0. Murray does enough things off script to where he can make it a long day on the Texans' linebacking crew. The key will be for Will Anderson and Jon Greenard to keep Murray in the pocket as much as they can.
2. Devin Singletary, Part Two
For the second straight week, the Houston Texans had the AFC's Offensive Player of the Week. Two weeks ago, it was Stroud, and this past week, it was Singletary, whose 30 carries for 150 yards unlocked the most potent version of Bobby Slowik's offense all season. The Texans gained 544 total yards against the Bengals last week. Hopefully, this was more about the Texans figuring some things out, as opposed to the fact they were merely opposing a crappy run defense. Balance in the offense is going to be a big key to winning the division this season.
1. C.J. Stroud, master chef (as in "Let CJ COOK")
Finally, there is C.J. Stroud, who has become the biggest story of the NFL so far this season. He's not just the best rookie quarterback, he might be the best quarterback in the NFL, period. This should be another Sunday of big numbers for Stroud, as the Cardinals are 31st in passer rating against (101.0), 28th in points allowed (26.3 per game), and 29th in defending the opposition on third down. Look for another monster from C.J. Stroud on Sunday.
SPREAD: Texans -4.5
PREDICTION: Texans 31, Cardinals 17
SEASON RECORD: 3-6 SU, 4-5 ATS
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