The Houston Texans' prospects are sinking; the reigning AFC South champs are falling fast. The Texans, after winning their first two games, are currently riding a terrible six-game losing streak, seemingly unable to break away from disastrous cycle of failure.
The Texans will be granted an opportunity to right the ship this weekend against the Arizona Cardinals and make something of what has been one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise memory.
Here are the keys to the game that the Texans must execute in order to add that elusive "W" to the record column.
Unleash Case Keenum
If last week's miserable choke-job—thanks to the unbelievably horrible leg of Randy Bullock—indicated anything, it was that Case Keenum can ball.
Whenever given the opportunity to makes plays, Keenum did just that. Along with Andre Johnson, he ripped apart an above-average Colts defense, looking more like a seasoned veteran—he never once turned the ball over—instead of a rookie starting his second game.
Houston's coaching staff, however, seemed hesitant to completely place the team's fate in Keenum's hands. They rode the injured Ben Tate, who was apparently in "serious pain," insisting on establishing a rushing attack with personnel that could not effectively create one.
Against the Cardinals—especially if Foster is out—the Texans need to place the ball in their young playmaker's hands. Arizona possesses a middling secondary that has not been very effective in shutting down opposing quarterbacks, and the upstart Keenum should have no more issues with them than he had with Kansas City or Indianapolis.
The Texans need to give Keenum opportunities to sling the ball deep, and they should also focus on getting him out in space, where his mobility makes him a dangerous threat to create huge plays out of nothing.
Just check out the first two touchdowns Keenum threw to Johnson last week. He was out in space in both of them and extended the play by eluding defenders with his legs.
Ramp Up the Pressure
Like last week, the Texans must place their faith in their secondary—hopefully with better results than last week's second half.
When the Texans were dominating the Colts offense and shutting down Andrew Luck, they were continuously sending extra defenders after the quarterback. The secondary—mainly in the first half—managed to lock down the Colts receivers in press man coverage, giving Luck nowhere to throw the ball before being overcome with pressure.
The Texans must utilize this same strategy against the Cardinals, who possess a turnstile offensive line that allows more sacks than most others in the league.
If the Texans can get to Carson Palmer early, the entire Cardinals offense could fold, which would put the Texans on path for a much-needed victory. In order to do this, due to the ineffectiveness of the Texans only rushing four defenders, they will need to send extra blitzers.
The Texans secondary must be prepared for a long day of single-man coverage; their success in guarding the Cardinals receivers will determine how often the Texans will be able to send defenders after Palmer.
Get the Ball to DeAndre Hopkins and Garrett Graham
After Andre Johnson's dominant performance against the Colts last week, it is almost a certainty that the Cardinals secondary will pay extra attention to the superstar receiver.
This bodes poorly for Johnson, who already will be forced to battle with one of the top cornerbacks in the league in Patrick Peterson.
Keenum, who essentially relied solely on Johnson last week, will have to spread the ball around to his other targets, most specifically DeAndre Hopkins and Garrett Graham.
Both Hopkins and Graham—especially Hopkins—have proved themselves to be worthy playmakers this season, and they both have the ability to make big things happen on offense.
The success of the Texans' passing attack will likely come down to Keenum's ability throw the ball to multiple targets instead of just continuously falling back on Johnson, as T.J. Yates did often in his rookie season.