Texans at Cardinals: The Most Interesting Game of the Weekend

Robert VegaCorrespondent IOctober 10, 2009

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 27:  Defensive end Antonio Smith #94 of the Houston Texans lines up during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars  at Reliant Stadium on September 27, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

I don't often watch football, but when I do, I watch the Texans at the Cardinals.

Ok, that's a lie.  I watch a lot of football.  But even if I wasn't a Texans fan, I'd be very interested in this weekends game in Glendale.

Normally a battle between a 1-2 team and a 2-2 team is pretty mundane.  This weekend's clash, however, is anything but.

Aside from the importance of what should already be an exciting game, there are plenty of underlying story-lines to keep even the most casual fan intrigued.

First, there is the major storyline of Andre Johnson vs. Larry Fitzgerald in the "who's the best receiver in the league" bowl.

Fitzgerald is undoubtedly in the discussion of "best in the league," but my money goes to Andre. 

Both receivers have unparalleled skill sets—hands, strength, route running, intelligence—but where Johnson sets himself apart is in speed.

Andre nearly won the NFL's fastest man competition a few years back and was the 2003 fastest man in college track. 

That's unheard of for a man of that size.

Pair that with his hands, knowledge of the game, and—here's one you don't often hear about a wide receiver—humility, and the edge has to go to Johnson. 

Regardless, though, it should be fun to watch.

Another storyline—popular in Houston and Arizona, but not so much in the rest of the country—is the return of Antonio Smith to Arizona.

Smith has been a sort of a whipping boy in Houston, where fans are still sore over the contract and underwhelming performance from Anthony Weaver for the last few years.

Before last week, Smith hadn't shown up on the stat sheet much and fans were getting restless saying things like, "I thought we got rid of Anthony Weaver."  In reality though Smith has been playing pretty well.

He's gotten pressure quite a few times and had a forced fumble against the Jets.  More importantly, Mario Williams has seen fewer double teams as a result of Smith lining up on the opposite side.

Last week, however, he finally stepped up and gave Texans fans what they've been looking for.

He put more pressure on the quarterback and recovered a fumble.

The ultimate highlight, however, came when Smith and Amobi Okoye pushed back the entire right side of Oakland's line in the end-zone to enable Brian Cushing to score a safety.

Cushing gets credit on the stat sheet, but without Smith's effort, that play doesn't happen.

Smith has talked about his respect for Kurt Warner and the Cardinals, so he shouldn't lack for motivation.

It will be exciting to see if he can continue his improved play. 

Yet another interesting subplot will be to see which of these teams can turn their season around. 

Both teams entered the year with expectations never before seen by their fan bases.

The Cardinals are expected to continue their resurgence after appearing in the team's first Super Bowl last year, after years of futility.

The Texans, on the other hand, are expected to have their first winning season and contend for the playoffs—and avoiding the years of frustration that accompanied the Cardinals for so long.

Both teams have lost games they should win if they're going to fulfill those expectations, however, with the Cards losing to resurgent rival San Francisco on opening day and the Texans losing a heart-breaker against Jacksonville.

Lastly, and in my opinion most interesting, the battle of the trenches when the Texans have the ball may well be the most critical in deciding the victor.

One of the reasons Arizona let Antonio Smith leave was their desire to switch to a 3-4 defense. 

That defense is keyed by star defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, whom Kubiak described as "the best player [he's] seen on film this year."

The Texans have historically struggled against 3-4 defenses and it's primarily due to the interior offensive line being overwhelmed by the larger, stronger defensive tackles generally featured by 3-4 teams.

At 285 pounds, Dockett is smaller than most of those tackles but possesses a unique combination of speed and strength. 

The Texans' interior offensive line play has been a weakness on offense this year and whether or not they can hold off Dockett may be the ultimate key to victory. 

With the Texans playing only their fifth game and the Cardinals their fourth, it's hard to call this a "must win" for either team.

Yet, the victor may ultimately look back on this game as one that keyed a turn around in their season while the loser will be feeling even more pressure to meet their new-found expectations.

The importance of this game paired with all the exciting subplots makes this the most interesting game of the weekend.


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