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Five Things To Watch: #AZvsHOU

A look at the top storylines for Sunday's game against the Texans


Five things to watch for in the Cardinals-Texans game Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston:

Gabbert gets his chance

So it turns out that Drew Stanton is going to miss a game, and Blaine Gabbert is indeed going to get his first start as a Cardinal. The Cards become the first team this season to start three different quarterbacks – not ideal. Gabbert flashed in the preseason and he has started more than 40 games in his career, but he has struggled when he has played. This provides the Cardinals a look-see on whether he makes sense to bring back in 2018. At this point, the script remains the same with whomever is playing in place of Carson Palmer: Run the ball as best as you can with Adrian Peterson, play good defense, and hope the passing game can do enough.

Getting the drop on the Texans secondary

If there is a place to exploit the Texans' defense, it is in the secondary. If you can get your quarterback time on their solid (even without J.J. Watt) pass rush, there are yards to find in the passing game. The Cardinals, of course, are dealing with a backup quarterback. But they also need to have much more sure hands than the ones collectively on display last game against the Seahawks. It is true that Stanton misfired on a couple of passes, but the game likely turns if the pass-catchers can hold on to the throws they probably should've have, costing the Cardinals first downs and touchdowns. The reality is the margin for error on the offense is thin. Drops hurt more than usual.

Exploiting a Savage offense

Tom Savage started the season as the Texans quarterback, only to be quickly benched for Deshaun Watson. Watson got hurt, Savage was put back in the lineup, and the Texans have struggled. They have scored just two offensive touchdowns total the last two games, and it's been bad enough that the Cardinals are even wondering if backup Braxton Miller could play. It's a good matchup for the Cardinals' defense if Savage goes, and the defense has picked up the past two games after a bad game in London against the Rams. With the quarterback shuffle on their own side, the Cards' defense has to be the straw that stirs the team's drink.  

"New" tackles and the Clowney factor

The Cardinals, after a month of continuity, are shuffling the offensive line again. D.J. Humphries is out for the season, so Jared Veldheer is moving back to left tackle. John Wetzel will take Veldheer's spot as right tackle. And the Cardinals will try to make that work against a J.J. Watt-less front seven that is still very good. Jadeveon Clowney has finally become the excellent defensive end he was supposed to be when he was taken No. 1 overall. He'll be a handful regardless of what side he's on, when eyes would have been on Veldheer/Wetzel anyway.

A win is up in the timeline

It's been a pattern all season for the Cardinals. Lose one, win one. Under that scenario, the Cards are due a victory against the Texans, a notion that isn't far-fetched – even with all the QB issues – because of the Texans' own issues. The reality is that at 4-5 the Cardinals are not in good shape, but that a win in Houston means a 5-5 record heading into a stretch of four of five at home. If there is hay to be made, that's the only way it could happen.

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