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Know your Foe: Arizona Cardinals | Week 11

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For the first time since 2017, the Texans will face the Arizona Cardinals at NRG Stadium. Consequently, there are a ton of different adjectives to describe this Cardinals squad. Scrappy. Feisty. Tough. Relentless. Regardless of the record, the film tells a completely different story; the Cardinals are a MUCH better team than their record indicates.

That's even more true with the return of QB Kyler Murray. Last week, he played his first game against the Falcons since tearing his ACL last season against the Patriots. In the Cardinals win, he was magnificent. If you'd gone into a cryovac like Harrison Ford one night before that Patriots game last year and woke up this week to watch Murray against Atlanta, you wouldn't have noticed any difference in Murray. For most players coming off of an ACL tear, there's something different. A little hitch in the giddy-up. Slower running speed. Lack of quickness. 

No. Nope. Not at all. 

Murray picked up right where he left off prior to the injury and his presence changes the whole complexion of this current Cardinals' team. Take Murray's dynamic skills, add in the Cardinals scrappy, feisty play they've exhibited this season already and Sunday will not FEEL like a game against a 2-8 squad. Throw in the Texans coming off of two emotional, pressure packed wins in the last two weeks and a potential let down after those wins..and it's going to be a really difficult 60 minutes of game action against this Cardinals squad.

So, before Sunday arrives, let's get to Know the Texans' Week 11 Foe - The Arizona Cardinals

2023 Schedule (2-8)

Week 1 - L @ Washington Commanders 20-16

Week 2 - L New York Giants 31-28

Week 3 - W Dallas Cowboy 28-16

Week 5 - L @ San Francisco 49ers 35-16

Week 6 - L @ Los Angeles Rams 26-9

Week 7 - L @ Seattle Seahawks 20-10

Week 8 - L Baltimore Ravens 31-24

Week 9 - L @ Cleveland Browns 27-0

Week 10 - W Atlanta Falcons 25-23

Week 11 - @ Houston Texans

Week 12 - Los Angeles Rams

Week 13 - @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 14 - BYE 

Week 15 - San Francisco 49ers

Week 16 - @ Chicago Bears

Week 17 - @ Philadelphia Eagles

Week 18 - Seattle Seahawks

Cardinals OFFENSE (in 2023 regular season)

Rushing Yards Per game - 126.5 ypg (9th in the NFL)

Passing Yards Per game - 169.4 ypg (31st)

Total offense per game - 295.9 ypg (25th)

Turnovers lost - 13 (8 INT, 5 Fumbles lost)

Expected Cardinals starting offense for Week 11

QB - Kyler Murray

RB - James Conner

WR - Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown

WR - MICHAEL WILSON

WR - Rondale Moore

TE - Trey McBride

LT - D.J. Humphries (missed last week v. Falcons) OR Kelvin Beahum

LG - CARTER O'DONNELL

C - HJALTE FROHOLDT

RG - Will Hernandez

RT - PARIS JOHNSON JR

Other Key Offensive pieces

RB - Keontay Ingram

RB - MICHAEL CARTER (claimed on waivers from Jets this week)

WR - Greg Dortch

WR - ZACH PASCAL

TE - GEOFF SWAIM

RB - TONY JONES (PS Call up last week v. Falcons)

QB - CLAYTON TUNE

Italics - Rookie

ALL CAPS - New to team in 2023

The Houston Texans held practice on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 in preparation for the Week 12 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.

Keys to winning v. the Cardinals Offense

  1. Creatively Executed Football- I didn't really want to call what QB Kyler Murray does Playground football because, well, if anything has changed for Murray, he's playing more within the structure of the offense. In his one start last week against Atlanta, he seemingly played more within OC Drew Petzing's play design and structure. But, BUT, the GREATNESS of Murray is always being able to take a donkey and make it a shining star. In other words, a play can be completely, and totally, shut down and he'll turn it into a game of Tag, eventually throwing for 25 yards to an open receiver or scramble for 30 big yards on 3rd and 29. It's not really playground football anymore; it's what I'm calling Creatively Executed Football, Kyler Murray style…and the Texans have to stop it from happening.
  1. The Conner Hammer is Back!- Cardinals RB James Conner was out of action for four weeks, but he returned last week against the Atlanta Falcons. He ran for 73 yards on 16 carries. He didn't break a long run, but he hammered through the Falcons run defense for six and seven and five and nine and three and four…and you get the point. It wasn't a bunch of no gains and one home run. He consistently put pressure on the Falcons defense on every carry. His size and hard charging running style create a ton of issues because there's Kyler with 4.3 speed and then there's Conner who runs over an average of 4.3 tacklers each carry. Tackling MUST be at a premium and that tackling will happen without one of the Texans' best tacklers on Sunday - LB Denzel Perryman. I really don't like having to stop quicksilver (Murray) and power (Conner) in the same backfield.
  1. The Emergence- When Cardinals TE Trey McBride was entering the draft in 2022, he was my highest rated TE in that group. But, after 16 games, 13 games as a starter, as a rookie, he was only targeted 39 times. Fast forward to his second season and he's already been targeted 49 times in just ten games. In fact, in two of the last three games, McBride has gone off. He had ten catches for 95 yards and a touchdown in the narrow loss to Baltimore three weeks ago and eight catches for 131 yards in the win over the Falcons last week. QB Kyler Murray targeted him nine out of his 32 passes in that win. Murray even looked for McBride deep down the field on the biggest completion of the day - a 33 yarder to put the Cardinals in game winning field goal range late in the game. The Texans haven't strapped opposing tight ends in the passing game this year, but need to find a way to limit McBride's touches in this one or it could be a long day.

Cardinals DEFENSE (in 2023 regular season)

Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 134.2 ypg (28th in the NFL)

Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 208.4 ypg (11th)

Total offense Allowed per game - 342.6 ypg (22nd)

Turnovers generated - 10 (5 INT, 5 Fumble recoveries - Cardinals are -3 in TO margin)

Expected Cardinals starting defense for Week 11

OLB - Dennis Gardeck

DT - Leki Fotu

DE - Jeremiah Ledbetter