Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 7: Texans-Cardinals — Four Things To Watch For

What's Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly going to do to try to counter the Cardinals?
What's Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly going to do to try to counter the Cardinals? Photo by Eric Sauseda
It's another Sunday of NFL football coming in two days, and in 2021, that means it's another Sunday where the Texans are double digit underdogs. Assume that if the Texans are playing a playoff caliber opponent on the road this season, that the spread on the game will be at least a couple touchdowns.

This coming Sunday, it's the Arizona Cardinals, with their flawless 6-0 record, and two of the Texans' five greatest players of all time starring for them on either side of the ball, future Hall of Fame J.J. Watt and All Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Watt asked for his release from the Texans back in February, while Hopkins was traded by Bill O'Brien back in March 2020. Regardless, both are probably thankful that they are far, far away from here.

I would say something about Watt and Hopkins "going against their old teammates," but as Watt pointed out on a Zoom call with Houston media yesterday, there are very few players on this Texans team that he played with in 2020, and certainly even fewer that Hopkins played with in his final season here all the way back in 2019 (which feels like decades ago, on so many levels).

So on Sunday, the Texans will do their best to win the game, or at least cover the 17-point spread. Yes, SEVENTEEN POINT SPREAD. Here are a few things to watch for in the next Texans' road debacle:


4. Deshaun Watson trade rumors swirling
So, kind of out of nowhere on Wednesday afternoon, just as the Astros were getting ready to start playing in Game 5 of the ALCS, in swooped the football news gods with this little nugget from Mark Berman of FOX 26:
So a process that appeared to be headed toward this coming offseason might get completed in the next week or so. Personally, I don't care if the Watson trade gets done this week or in April, as long as it's done before the 2022 draft, and as long as Nick Caserio squeezes maximum value from the deal. If Watson DOES get moved in the next week, that means he would be available in Week 9 for the Dolphins to start against.... THE HOUSTON TEXANS! That would make this weekend's "reunion game" feel like small potatoes, comparatively, and that's saying something, because....

3. Watt, Hopkins ... nice to see you again
...it is far from small potatoes. We are talking about the greatest player in Texans franchise history (Watt), and another arguable future Hall of Fame (Hopkins). Of the two, my guess is Watt is the one who carries the fresher wounds, mostly because he had to endure the awful 4-12 season in 2020. Hopkins was off in Arizona last season, catching 100-plus balls and enjoying twice the number of wins as the Texans had. That said, of the two, I most expect Hopkins to do something during the game (or perhaps on social media before or after the game) where we are reminded of what an insult it was to be dealt for a second round pick and RB David Johnson. By the way, if anybody from Phoenix is reading this, do people care that this is David Johnson's return to where his career started? Anyone?

2. Backfilling the departed
This was an eventful week for the Texans, as they parted ways with longtime edge rusher Whitney Mercilus and short time kick returner Andre Roberts. Mercilus was, by far, the bigger news item, as his career with the Texans spanned three different coaching regimes and numerous general managers. He was probably the most overpaid player in team history toward the end of his career, but at least he was generous with his money in the Houston community. For what it's worth, Mercilus landed on his feet, signing with the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday. Now, we shall see if Mercilus' departure means that Charles Omenihu, inactive two weeks in a row, is activated again for Sunday. As for Roberts, expect Tremon Smith and Desmond King to take over kick and punt return duties. If the Texans are going to make life at all uncomfortable for the Cardinals, they will likely need a big play or two in the return game.

1. Davis Mills, road touchdown? Please?
Since taking over as the starting quarterback in Week 3, the numbers have not been great for rookie QB Davis Mills. The 25-22 loss at home to the Patriots was the exception, as Mills threw for over 300 yards and generated multiple touchdowns in that game. The road games since taking over as the starter have been an entirely different story for Mills. In his two road starts — at Buffalo and at Indianapolis — the Texans have been outscored 71-3. No touchdowns. In fact, Mills has only generated one touchdown on the road, early in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, after taking over for the injured Tyrod Taylor. So, if you're wondering why there is such a gargantuan spread on this game, there you go.


SPREAD: Texans +17
PREDICTION: Cardinals 42, Texans 13
RECORD: 6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast