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Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals: Matchups, predictions as the Cardinals look to stay perfect

In the Week 7 Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals matchup, can Arizona remain perfect, or will Houston spring a major surprise?

This Sunday’s Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals matchup appears to be a mismatch based on what we have seen on the field so far. However, the NFL does not always go to script. Let’s examine whether there is any realistic chance of an upset as the Texans and Cardinals face off in Arizona.

Houston Texans offense vs. Arizona Cardinals defense

It has been a mixed season for the Texans’ offense. In the first two weeks, Tyrod Taylor appeared to have found some rhythm quarterbacking the offense. But after Taylor was injured in Week 2, the offense struggled mightily in Davis Mills’ first two starts. The good news is that things have started to change in the last couple of weeks, at least in terms of getting the offense moving down the field.

Davis Mills vs. Cardinals defense

No one expected the Texans’ third-round selection to lead this offense to many wins once Taylor went down. However, Mills has demonstrated some progress in the past two weeks.

His performance against the Patriots’ defense made the NFL world sit up and take note. Last week against the Colts did not go to plan, but it was still a significant improvement over Houston’s Week 4 loss to the Bills.

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Mills has completed 69.4% of his passes in the last two weeks. In doing so, he has passed for 555 yards at an average of 7.7 yards per attempt. Those numbers demonstrate the potential he has at the helm of this offense. Unfortunately, the consistency has simply not been there, which remains a concern heading into this matchup.

In the Cardinals’ defense, Mills is facing a unit that allows an average of just 5.9 passing yards per attempt and only 9 passing touchdowns while reeling in 6 interceptions. All three of those numbers place them in the top 10 in the league this season. This is going to be an extremely tough matchup for Mills against a very comprehensive Cardinals defense.

Advantage: Cardinals

Texans skill players vs. Cardinals secondary

When we talk about the Texans’ skill players, it is really all about Brandin Cooks. Cooks leads the team with 57 targets, while no other Houston pass catcher has more than 18 targets. In the past two weeks, Chris Moore and Chris Conley have emerged as secondary targets, but they have just 22 targets combined this season.

That lack of clear secondary weapons is tough when going up against a top-10 pass defense in terms of opposing completion rate (62.6%). If the Cardinals look to double team Cooks, the Texans will need to lean on those secondary options.

Arizona cornerback Byron Murphy has allowed just a 52.8% completion rate for 310 yards and a touchdown on 36 targets. He has been somewhat susceptible to the big play, which may make the Cardinals hesitant to have him shadow Cooks.

The No. 2 cornerback on Arizona’s roster is Robert Alford, who has allowed just a 56.7% completion rate with 135 yards and 2 touchdowns on 30 targets. He has been less susceptible to the big play and may be the better player to line up opposite Cooks in this matchup.

With two CBs that have posted good numbers this season, the Cardinals have a clear edge here, especially if they can limit Cook’s effectiveness.

Advantage: Cardinals

Texans offensive line vs. Cardinals defensive line

Not much was expected of Houston’s offensive line entering the season, and they have managed to match those low standards. Football Outsiders’ offensive line metrics place the Texans’ OL as the worst unit in the league in terms of run blocking.

However, this matchup could be fairly close to even in the run game. The Cardinals’ defense has struggled against the run this season, with opponents averaging 5.2 yards per rushing attempt. Only one team in the league has allowed more rushing yards per attempt than Arizona this season.

The Texans’ OL has been better in pass protection than run blocking. Their 7.1% sack rate allowed is closer to the league average than the worst teams in the league but is still below average.

That is a concern when facing a Cardinals defense that is top 10 in both pressure rate (26.9%) and sack rate (7.7%). These two lines might be similar in terms of the run game, but the Cardinals’ defense appears to be the superior unit when it comes to the passing game. However, the Cardinals will be without Chandler Jones, who was not activated from the COVID reserve list in time for the game.

Advantage: Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals offense vs. Houston Texans defense

The Cardinals’ offense has been extremely impressive in 2021. They rank fourth in the league in points per game and seventh in yards gained. Can the Houston defense slow down a unit averaging over 30 points per game, or will the Cardinals continue on their march?

Kyler Murray vs. Texans defense

We have seen an impressive opening to the 2021 NFL season from Kyler Murray. He has thrown 14 touchdown passes at a rate of 7.2%, compared to 4 interceptions at a rate of 2.1%. However, the most incredible part of his play has been leading the league in completion rate at 73.8% while also ranking third in passing yards per attempt.

There is no reason he should struggle when facing a Texans team that allows 7.6 passing yards per attempt, the fourth-worst in the league. The only reason that teams have not been throwing for more yards against the Texans is that they have been racking up yards on the ground.

This matchup should not be a serious challenge for Murray. As long as he plays his game and doesn’t take unnecessary risks, he should be able to have a more than comfortable game in Week 7.

Advantage: Cardinals

Cardinals skill players vs. Texans secondary

The Cardinals have a lot of talent at their disposal, and their offense has a lot of different skill sets. The balance in targets has been a delight to see, with five pass catchers seeing between 28 and 38 targets each. With 6 touchdowns, DeAndre Hopkins continues to be the star, and A.J. Green is providing a perfect foil as he revitalizes his career.

The real delight has been the development of Christian Kirk. He has pulled in 26 of his 31 targets for 358 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kirk and Rondale Moore have secured 50 of the 59 targets thrown their way. That kind of reliability from your third and fourth receiving options makes a quarterback’s life much easier.

On top of those four receivers, the Cardinals have had solid production in the receiving game from Chase Edmonds. They also traded for Zach Ertz to replace the injured Maxx Williams. This group might just be the best combination of six pass catchers anywhere in the NFL.

The Texans have been perfectly adequate in terms of their coverage. They are allowing a close-to-league-average 66.8% completion rate, with just 9 touchdowns compared to 6 interceptions. The problem is that they are susceptible to giving up the big play, allowing 8.3 yards per passing attempt.

From the perspective of the individual players in the secondary, Justin Reid has impressed, picking off 2 passes on 13 targets. Terrance Mitchell has posted solid numbers, but Desmond King II and Vernon Hargreaves III have both struggled.

When facing the Cardinals, teams need their entire secondary to play well to cover all their options. That is simply not the case for the Texans. Even if Houston can restrict a couple of Arizona’s receiving options, the Cards will have other places to turn in the passing game.

Advantage: Cardinals

Cardinals offensive line vs. Texans defensive line

The Cardinals’ offensive line has been a below-average group this season, especially in the run game. That has translated to their running game being just average this year. However, this week they face a Texans run defense that is in the bottom five of the league in 2021.

In terms of pass blocking, the Cardinals line has put up average numbers. However, some of their deficiencies are hidden by having the ultra-mobile Murray playing QB. This week, they should find it slightly more manageable. The Texans are one of the worst units in the NFL in pressure rate (19.4%) and are below average when it comes to sacking the QB (5.1%).

Neither unit will likely be dominant in this matchup. However, with the X-factor of Murray under center, the Cardinals’ line should feel more than comfortable with what the Texans will throw at them.

Advantage: Push

Betting line and game prediction

Once again, the Texans will be underdogs by a significant amount this week. Given that they have lost by 28 or more points in two of the last three weeks, a spread of 17.5 points might not be enough. The Cardinals are the better team in almost every area.

Texans vs. Cardinals Prediction: Cardinals 30, Texans 13

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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