Houston Texans (2-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
The Texans have lost each of the past two games, but the good news is that they might have found their quarterback of the future. Case Keenum has completed 35 of 59 for 621 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2 games. The Texans have been better than their record all along. They are moving the chains at a 76% rate, as opposed to 73% for their opponents. They’ve just been killed by turnovers (-11), inability to recover fumbles (41.2%), and return touchdowns (-6 touchdowns). Now with Keenum under center, things seem to be better. Again, they haven’t won, but losing by a combined 4 points to the Chiefs and Colts is almost like beating anyone else.
The Texans have had a brutal schedule to this point, as 7 of their 8 opponents are currently 4-4 or better. Between the 49ers, Seahawks, Colts, and Chiefs, they’ve faced 4 of the top-10 teams in my Power Rankings. Their schedule gets easier from here on out, starting with the Cardinals here this week. The Cardinals are moving the chains at a 71% rate, as opposed to 73% for their opponents. If you use rate of moving the chains differential to determine the line, the Texans should actually be favored by a little bit, before you even get into their schedule.
Two uncertainties are why this isn’t a bigger play. One is that Gary Kubiak is out. They might rally together and win one for Kubiak before he returns next week, but they could also look as lost as they did last week without him. Interim Head Coach Wade Phillips has struggled as a Head Coach in the past. On top of that, being the Head Coach could distract him from putting everything into calling plays for the defense. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is now the primary offensive play caller.
The second reason is just that, going into his 3rd career start, the Cardinals could have enough tape on Keenum to figure out how to play him and expose why he went undrafted. The Colts did this to a large extent in the 2nd half last week. Keenum loves to throw it deep, but if you blitz him, like the Colts did often in the 2nd half, he doesn’t seem to be accurate enough to take advantage and he might even have trouble reading the blitz. Still, I like the Texans this week.
Houston Texans 20 Arizona Cardinals 17 Upset Pick +125
Pick against spread: Houston +2.5