CARDINALS CORNER

Texans heat index: Injured Houston still finds way to hurt Cardinals’ 2024 1st-round pick

Dec 22, 2023, 6:43 PM

The Arizona Cardinals have three games left to play in the regular season. After that, it’s time for the offseason, headlined by the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Cardinals have their own first-rounder — currently sitting No. 3 overall — in addition to the Houston Texans’ first pick thanks to a 2023 draft-day trade pulled off by general manager Monti Ossenfort and the front office.

At one point, the deal looked like it would net Arizona no less than a top 10 selection. But with what head coach DeMeco Ryans and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud have done in Year 1, anything inside the top 15 would be a big win for Ossenfort and Co. given where the Texans sit in the NFL standings.

To help keep track of the Cardinals’ extra first-round pick in the draft on a weekly basis, here’s a closer look at where the Texans are currently and where they are headed with a some help from Tankathon:

2024 NFL Draft order snapshot

13. New Orleans Saints (7-8)
14. Denver Broncos (7-7)
15. Seattle Seahawks (7-7)
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
17. Houston Texans *owned by Cardinals* (8-6)
18. Buffalo Bills (8-6)

No C.J. Stroud (or Will Anderson Jr., etc.), no problem

Despite being down multiple starters, including Stroud, linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and wide receiver Tank Dell, the Texans came out on top in an overtime win over the Tennessee Titans last week.

Filling in for Stroud, Case Keenum completed 23 of his 36 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown to an interception. He was also sacked three times.

Running back Devin Singletary also had a good day behind 121 yards on 26 carries. He also caught four passes for 49 yards.

Thanks to the efforts of Keenum, Singletary and others, the Texans moved to 8-6 on the season and two spots down the draft board to No. 17.

The Texans will need that same kind of energy this week, as Stroud, Anderson and linebacker Blake Cashman have already been ruled out for another game.

Heat index: Simmering

Winning without a handful of key players is a massive momentum builder and confidence booster for the Ryans-led squad.

Tennessee, however, doesn’t bring the same gusto as the Cleveland Browns, who are next up for the Texans in Week 16.

Eyeing an AFC Wild Card spot, the Browns are riding a two-game winning streak and are the top defense in the league, limiting opponents to 261.1 yards per contest.

Lucky 7s

Since the Saints already took the L in Week 16, the trend this week is to keep an eye on the other three seven-win teams positioned ahead of the Texans in the draft order.

A loss by Houston (.477) and a win by any of Denver (.483), Seattle (.521) or Pittsburgh (.540) will see the Texans move up the draft board as high as No. 14 thanks to having a weaker strength of schedule than the other three.

Games to watch

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Steelers have fallen off a cliff.

The Bengals have not despite losing Joe Burrow for the year.

Even without Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati has a good shot in this one and is favored (-2.5 points) over the home team, per FanDuel Sportsbook.

Seattle Seahawks @ Tennessee Titans

Geno Smith is expected to return to action this week after the Drew Lock-led Seahawks knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

Pete Carroll might have a few more tricks up his sleeve.

Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots

The Patriots offense is rough.

The Broncos defense is tough.

If you have Denver’s defense in Round 2 of the fantasy football playoffs, I salute you.

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