Saturday night preseason football and we the Houston Texas travel to to the desert to take on the Arizona Cardinals. The game has a start time of 8:30 pm (Eastern) and will be televised locally. Current Vegas odds have the Cardinals listed as 2 point favorites, while the total is set at 38.
Analysis: The Houston Texans suffered through a miserable 2013 as they lost their last 14 games of the year to finish at 2-14. Now they are in rebuilding and indications are that this team may just bounce back sooner than later. Last year the Texans ranked 31st in the league in scoring, at 17.3 ppg, despite ranking 11th in total yards (347.3 ypg). Matt Schaub was a big reason for the struggles on offense and was benched in favor of Case Keenum and that provided no spark at all to the offense. The Texans did draft Tom Savage with the 135th overall pick, but he is just too raw for the NFL right now, so Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in to mentor him. The running game should be solid with a healthy Arian Foster back, while WR’s Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins for a lethal downfield duo. The OL got a bit of help when they took Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA) with their second pick. Defensively, the Texans ranked 24th in points allowed (26.8 ppg) and 7th in yards allowed (317.6 ypg). The PPG were not all the fault of the defense as Schaub's INTs and Pick sixes really help to inflate the points allowed. This will be a much better defense overall, especially with more stability at QB and after after taking Jadaveon Clowney with the first overall pick in the draft, plus grabbing NT Louis Nix (Notre Dame), with their 4th overall pick.
The Arizona Cardinals had a solid 1st year under HC Bruce Arians as they went 10-6 on the season. This year they have questions at LB and still have a weak running game, plus they reside in the same division as the Niners and Seahawks, which should make duplicating last years 10 wins a tough task. Carson Palmer led this offense last year and he had a decent season, throwing for 4274 yards with 24 TDs, but still made too many mistakes with his 22 INTs. He will have back his top two targets from last year in Larry Fitzgerald (954 yards, 10 TDs) and Michael Floyd (1041 yards, 5 TDs). The TE Spot could be a strength as well with the additions of FA John Carlson (Minnesota) and 2nd pick Troy Niklas. The OL had allowed 50+ sacks3 years in a row and while they cut it down to 41 last year, that is still too much. This year they should be much better, as Jonathan Cooper (LY's 1st pick) should be back after spending the year on IR and they have also added Jered Veldheer (Oakland). The Running game has been a sore spot of this team for years and this year could be no different as Mendenhall has retired, leaving the running game in the hands of 2nd year back Andre Ellington, who has just 1 career start on his resume. Last year the Arizona defense Finished 7th in points allowed (20.2 ppg, 6th in yards allowed (317 ypg) and 1st in rush yards allowed (84 ypg). They had an awesome front 7, but gone are LBs Karlos Dansby (FA), Jasper Brinkley (FA) and Daryl Washington (Suspension). The leaves a hug void in the middle of this defense. The Cardinals did nothing in the draft or free agency to upgrade this position, so it will be the weak spot of this defense. They did strengthen an already good DL with the drafting of DE's Kareem Martin (3rd pick) and Ed Stinson (6th pick). They also upgraded a solid secondary with their 1st pick SS Deone Bucannon and through free agency by grabbing Antonio Cromatie from the Jets.
Pick: I really like the Under in this game. Both of these teams will have very good defenses this year, especially Houston, who will be out to show that the 27 ppg they allowed last year was not all their fault. The offense really put them in bad position for much of the year, plus Schaub's TD's to the other teams also contributed to the PPG allowed. This will be a very stout defense again, especially with the addition of Clowney and Nix. I see them being a top 7 or 8 defense this year. The Cardinals have some holes at LB, but both the front wall and secondary have a chance to be two of the better units in the league. Running the ball has always been an issue for the Card and I expect them to work on that a bit more tonight, especially with so many unproven backs in the fold. The cards do have a nice QB rotation, but Palmer won't be in there all that long and Houston does have solid defensive depth. The Texas do not have a solid QB rotation. Fitzpatrick is a steady QB, but not a big play one and Keenum struggled last year. They will also see what QB Tom Savage can do, but I don't see them getting too many points with him in there. The Texans are a run first offense and should continue with that in this one. Really hard to see more than a 17-14 type game here.
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