Arizona Cardinals vs. Houston Texans: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 16, 2017 at 12:51 PM
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ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-5) AT HOUSTON TEXANS (3-6)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, NRG Stadium. TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: Fourth regular-season meeting. Cardinals lead series, 2-1. The Texans lost 27-24 to the Cardinals in 2013.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals will still try to establish the run first with Adrian Peterson, who in four games with his new team has been stuffed twice and also enjoyed two 100-yard games. He'll be running behind a different look, as right tackle Jared Veldheer is switching back to the left side because of the season-ending knee injury to D.J. Humphries and backup John Wetzel is replacing Veldheer at right tackle.

When it comes to the passing game, the Cardinals' wide receivers and tight ends need to do a much better job at catching balls. They had several drops in the Thursday night loss to Seattle, and that drew the wrath of coach Bruce Arians.

Houston's once-feared defense is exploitable as Romeo Crennel's unit is allowing 26.8 points per game, the second-most in the league. The Texans will try to bottle up Peterson and contain wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

The Texans will attempt to protect the football better on offense after quarterback Tom Savage committed four turnovers against the Rams. They'll try to run the football more often and more effectively with Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman to control possession.

The Cardinals will focus on containing Miller and then doing everything they can to harass and disrupt Savage.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Texans CB Johnathan Joseph. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Joseph has allowed long touchdown passes to speedy wide receivers each of the past two games. Fitzgerald isn't that fast, but he has the hands, body control and route-running skills that could make this a favorable matchup for the Cardinals, regardless of whether Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert is throwing him the football.

--Texans RT Breno Giacomini vs. Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones. Jones has been a sack master this season, ranking among NFL sack leaders with 10. He has had only one multi-sack game, and Giacomini is a tough, 10-year veteran. Tom Savage has been sacked 12 times, however, and if the Cardinals keep getting a decent push from their interior defensive linemen, it could open the door for Jones to wreak havoc.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert. Even if Drew Stanton is able to start, keep an eye on Gabbert, who could easily get into the game and take over if Stanton's knee starts to give him problems. Gabbert hasn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since Dec. 4, when he was 4 of 10 for 35 yards during San Francisco's 26-6 loss to the Bears. That was his sixth and final appearance in 2016 and he was on the losing end in each of his last five. He is 0-4 in four career appearances against the Texans. Gabbert has been getting some reps with the first-team offense the past two weeks, which will help him a ton should he play. He's also far more mobile than Stanton and that could be a huge benefit when sidestepping or sprinting out of danger against Houston's athletic and fast defensive front seven.

FAST FACTS: Cardinals QB Drew Stanton passed for 273 yards and a TD last week. He has won four of his past five starts. ... RB Adrian Peterson has 99 career rushing TDs and needs one more to become the ninth player in NFL history with 100. He has 225 rushing yards (112.5 per game) and a TD in two career meetings against the Texans. In the past four games, he has 343 rushing yards (85.8 per game) and two TDs. ... LB Chandler Jones is tied for third in the NFL with 10 sacks and leads the league with 15 tackles for loss. He has six sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in the past two games against AFC foes. ... Texans QB Tom Savage had a passing TD in Week 10. He aims for his third game in a row with a passing TD. ... RB Lamar Miller has 577 scrimmage yards (96.2 per game) and three TDs in the past six games at home. He has three TDs in the past four games against NFC teams. ... DE Jadeveon Clowney aims for his fourth game in a row with a sack. He has a sack in four of the past five games against NFC teams. He has 28 tackles for loss since 2016, the second most in the NFL. He is one of three players in the NFL (Everson Griffen and Demarcus Lawrence) with 10 tackles for loss (12) and two forced fumbles (2) in 2017.

PREDICTION: Two beat-up teams with slim playoff hopes meet in Houston. The guess here is that the Cardinals can overcome their injuries a bit better than the Texans, who might have three-peated in the AFC South were it not for the freak ACL tear suffered by rookie QB DeShaun Watson.

OUR PICK: Cardinals, 16-13.

--Bucky Dent

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