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Saturday before football Sunday: What to watch for in Texans-Cardinals

A reunion game for Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, and Texans’ David Johnson

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

This Texans-Cardinals matchup will be quite a reunion game for a few of their players.

Texans’ running back David Johnson will return to State Farm Stadium for the first time since being traded by the Cardinals in a blockbuster highway robbery deal for All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last year.

Cardinals’ defensive end J.J. Watt spent the first 10 seasons of his career with the Houston Texans before the team granted his release request this past offseason. Watt is the Texans’ franchise record holder in career sacks (101).

The Texans are currently on a five-game losing streak where as the Cardinals remain perfect with a 6-0 record. Hopkins and Watt will look to keep the Cardinals hot streak going against their former team in this highly anticipated matchup for the two All-Pro players.

Here are five things to watch for in Week 7:

Arizona Cardinals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

1. A potential feast for the Cardinals secondary

With no Tyrod Taylor yet again due to a serious hamstring injury he suffered in Week 2, rookie quarterback Davis Mills will draw his fifth consecutive start for the Houston Texans. Mills is currently tied for the fourth-most interceptions (7) thrown this season. He will face a Cardinals’ secondary that has the sixth-most interceptions (6) and their defense has the third-most turnovers (13) in the NFL. To make matters worse for Mills, his team has been outscored 120-31 in his four-career starts. Budda Baker, Byron Murphy, and the rest of the Cardinals’ secondary could be in for a huge day.

Arizona Cardinals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

2. Texans to “Chase” Edmonds and Conner

When teams run away with the game early, the run game gets an even bigger dose of usage to burn out the clock. In this Texans-Cardinals game where Arizona is an 18-point favorite to win in a blowout fashion, expect Chase Edmonds to receive more touches against a Texans’ run defense that has allowed the second-most rushing yards (141.3 YPG) and the most rushing touchdowns (11) in the NFL. He had 84 total yards from scrimmage the last two games combined but I expect a huge rebound game for Edmonds especially if the Cardinals jump out to an early lead. James Conner has received double-digit carries in five out of the last six games and that trend should continue on Sunday.

Arizona Cardinals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

3. DeAndre Hopkins will have his best game of the season

There is nothing like a good ol’ revenge game in the NFL so do not be surprised to see Kyler Murray primarily target DeAndre Hopkins on Sunday as the All-Pro receiver hopes to obliterate his former team from existence. Texans’ cornerback Desmond King is still adjusting to the move to outside cornerback having played in the nickel for most of his career. Opposite King is Terrance Mitchell. Charles “Peanut” Tillman would be proud of Mitchell’s three forced fumbles this season but his cover skills leaves a lot to be desired. Hopkins has already tied his touchdown mark of last season with six with a strong possibility to add to his season total tomorrow against a struggling Texans’ cornerback duo.

Arizona Cardinals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

4. Texans’ starting offensive tackles out could mean plenty of sack opportunities for J.J. Watt and Cardinals front seven in reunion game

With Laremy Tunsil and Marcus Cannon on injured reserve, the Texans have no choice but to start Geron Christian in place of Tunsil at left tackle and Charlie Heck will continue to start on the right side with Cannon out. Heck has been an adequate right tackle for the Texans the last two games, having allowed only one sack in 82 pass block snaps in those starts. For a backup, Christian has been serviceable as a pass blocker the last two games. However their biggest challenge of the season will be on Sunday when they are tasked to block J.J. Watt, Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, and the rest of the Cardinals’ front seven. Last week, Golden and Watt feasted on the Browns’ backup offensive tackles with 11 combined pressures, three sacks, and two forced fumbles.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

5. Texans are struggling but they do have some bright spots

The Texans may be a struggling football team but they have shown quite a few good things this season. For one, they have the fourth-most forced fumbles (8) and are tied with the Cardinals plus two other teams with the sixth-most interceptions (6) on defense in the NFL. Of course the Cardinals are king in the forced fumble category with 10. Brandin Cooks is 12th in the NFL in receiving yards (481) and is tied for fifth in receptions (40). Jonathan Greenard leads the Texans with four sacks as Justin Reid leads them in interceptions (2) as one of the better safeties in the NFL.

This matchup features two teams going in completely opposite directions. The Cardinals are the best team in the NFL as the only unbeaten team remaining. The Texans are one of the worst teams in the NFL having lost five consecutive games. Struggling teams are often the hungriest teams but that does usually translate to success. In my honest opinion, the Texans are not necessarily a poorly coached team. They just lack the talent to win games or be competitive against quality opponents. Tomorrow, I expect the Cardinals to be the very dominant team in this matchup but I would not be surprised to see some good plays by the Texans here and there.

This Cardinals team is confident but not overconfident to the point where they will underestimate their opponents. A three-headed running back committee with Mark Ingram, David Johnson, and Phillip Lindsay could be interesting against the Cardinals’ 24th-ranked run defense. Can never be too sure about a opponent no matter what their record is. The Cardinals are level headed and it has been evident with their leadership on display through all six wins.

Let’s make it a fun weekend everybody!