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Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals Prediction and Preview

J.J. Watt, Arizona Cardinals

J.J. Watt will face off with his former team when the undefeated Cardinals host the Texans on Sunday

The Arizona Cardinals will try to extend their undefeated start to the season as they host the Houston Texans on Sunday. There will be some familiar faces on opposite sidelines for this one even though these two teams have only played each other four times previously. The last meeting was back in 2017, a 31-21 Texans home win with Blaine Gabbert (Arizona) and Tom Savage (Houston) doing the quarterbacking.

Last week saw Houston (1-5) lose its fifth in a row, falling 31-3 to Indianapolis on the road. Rookie signal-caller Davis Mills threw for 243 yards but also tossed a pair of interceptions and was sacked twice in the loss. The Texans put up 353 yards, but three turnovers and too many big plays by the home team turned a 10-3 game at halftime into a rout.

Arizona enjoyed its visit to Cleveland much more, crushing the Browns 37-14 last Sunday to improve to 6-0. The Cardinals held Cleveland's beat-up offense to 290 yards and forced three turnovers. Kyler Murray continued his MVP-level play with four more touchdown passes while James Conner and Chase Edmonds combined for 117 on the ground.

Houston (1-5) at Arizona (6-0)

Kickoff: Sun, Oct. 24 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Arizona -17

Three Things to Watch

1. Intangibles
The Texans are playing their second straight road game as part of a stretch of four of six contests away from home. Team morale also has to be pretty low at this point after losing five in a row. Things don't figure to get any easier either with the Rams coming to Houston next Sunday. For Arizona, it hasn't mattered where it plays so far, but the Cardinals will play three of their next four in State Farm Stadium. Next up is a "Thursday Night Football" showdown, but the only impact that might have is if head coach Kliff Kingsbury decides to rest his starters should Sunday's contest get out of hand.

Otherwise, an interesting subplot to this game is it will be J.J. Watt's first against his former team. Watt is acutely aware of the circumstances but also made it clear that it's not the same team he was a part of for his first 10 seasons in the league because of the extensive roster turnover. That doesn't mean that Watt doesn't want to leave his mark on this game either. The same can be said for another former Texan, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Houston's first-round pick (27th) overall in 2013, Hopkins was three-time All-Pro during his time in Houston until he was traded to Arizona in March 2020. There's also running back David Johnson, who is on the other side of this narrative, as he played his first five seasons with the Cardinals, including his 2016 All-Pro campaign, before he was sent to Houston as part of the Hopkins trade. Regardless of what they may say, you know this isn't just another game for these three.  

2. Can the Texans do anything right?
Not much is going right for Houston this season, although it's somewhat understandable given all the changes and some of the other circumstances the franchise is dealing with. Four of the Texans' five losses have been by double digits, with two of those by 40 (at Bills, Week 4) and 28 (at Colts, Week 6) points. The defense has given up 30 or more points three times while the offense has managed nine or fewer three times.

Since taking over for an injured Tyrod Taylor, Mills has had some good moments. He's also thrown for 555 yards over the las two games. But he's got more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (five) and has been sacked 12 times in his four starts, all losses. He's getting minimal help from a running game that's averaging less than 90 yards per game (26th in the NFL) and has yet to produce a 100-yard rusher despite featuring three veterans (Johnson, Mark Ingram II, Phillip Lindsay) who all have at least one 1,000-yard season on their résumé. It doesn't help that the team's best offensive lineman, Laremy Tunsil, is on injured reserve after undergoing thumb surgery recently.

The lack of support has put even more pressure on Mills, which is not fair to the rookie. Taylor could be back soon, but until then this offense will likely continue to struggle, especially on Sunday against an Arizona defense that has played well thus, holding teams to 18.2 points per game (third in the league).

3. Come out with a clean bill of health
Let's face it, I don't need to do a grand analysis of this matchup here because the Cardinals should win rather easily. The team has been pretty healthy so far, and with matchups against the Packers, 49ers, Panthers and Seahawks ahead, they need to stay that way. As long as the offense executes to its level, this one should be over by the third quarter. Arizona has plenty of talent to showcase three different players who have led them in rushing and three different players who have led them in receiving.

Final Analysis

No need to overthink this. Arizona wins by double digits. The big question is who plays in the fourth quarter and will the backdoor be open for the point spread?

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Prediction: Cardinals 34, Texans 13

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.