The Arizona Cardinals return to State Farm Stadium for a two-game homestand starting Sunday against the Houston Texans.
With a victory, the team would improve to 7-0 and tie the franchise record for wins to start a season.
Last week, Arizona plowed through the Cleveland Browns 37-14 despite not having head coach Kliff Kingsbury or edge rusher Chandler Jones due to COVID-19.
The Cardinals kept their composure and put together a complete performance in all three phases.
The Texans come into this matchup 1-5 and on a five-game losing streak.
Rookie quarterback Davis Mills will be under center for his fifth start after veteran Tyrod Taylor suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2.
When and where
Sunday, Oct. 24 at 1:25 p.m.
CBS with Greg Gumble, Adam Archuleta and A.J. Ross
98.7 FM Arizona Sports with Dave Pasch, Ron Wolfley, Paul Calvisi
KHOV 105.1 FM with Luis Hernandez and Rolando Cantu
Kingsbury was still out as of Friday, putting his game availability in jeopardy.
Some good news was that Jones was back in the facility. He did not practice, and the team will evaluate where he stands physically before determining his game status.
A wrinkle this week for the Cardinals will be involving tight end Zach Ertz into the offense after the team acquired him last week.
"If teams are going to play shell and roll to Hop’ (DeAndre Hopkins), that puts him one-on-one with 'backers," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Wednesday. "With the play-action pass game, he can kill teams down the middle. He’s also a really good blocker."
Sunday also marks the first time that Hopkins and defensive end J.J. Watt will face their former team.
Both players established legacies in Houston, and Watt said this week that it was a little weird game-planning for the Texans for the first time.
"I will always have massive love and respect for the fans of Houston in the city of Houston because of everything that they gave to me and how much I cherish my time there," Watt said Thursday.
He also mentioned that when the game starts, they will be just another opponent. Plus, this is a different Texans team than the one they were on.
Houston has 31 players currently on the active roster who were not there last year. This team is in a transitional phase with a lot of veterans on one-year contracts.
The Texans did not have their first-round pick this year after a trade with Miami, so they were not able to find a franchise cornerstone early on.
They are 31st in points per game, 25th in defensive scoring and have the NFL's worst point differential at minus-80. To compare, the Cardinals have a plus-85-point differential, second-highest in the NFL.
But the Cardinals are not taking this as a pseudo bye week.
"I view every game as their own," quarterback Kyler Murray said Wednesday. "Their record is what people are looking at as a trap game and stuff like that. But I say it every week, it's the NFL, they've got players, we've got players and we've got to go out there and give them our best shot."
Joseph said it's insulting to call any game a trap game because it is difficult to win NFL games.
The Cardinals have a goal to go 1-0 every week and get one week better to stay in the present moment.
That's important this week as Arizona has a quick turnaround with a Thursday Night Football matchup against the Packers in Week 8.
Wide receiver A.J. Green said this week that when you look ahead, you lose focus. The team will worry about the Packers after Sunday's game.
Kingsbury may get a head start, though, as he began game planning for Houston from home during the Cardinals win over the Browns.
Without Lawrence, plus Zach Allen and Corey Peters due to COVID-19, the Cardinals are missing a lot of their defensive line.
Last week, the team called in Jonathan Ledbetter on game day to fill in, and he may need to do so again. Arizona also signed Josh Mauro back to the practice squad this week, and he could get some action as well.
Return of David Johnson
The Cardinals sent running back David Johnson to Houston in a package for Hopkins last year.
He spoke to The Athletic's Aaron Reiss this week about the deal, which put a lot of stress on him at the time. It was not easy to hear so many people make fun of the package Houston received in the trade.
Johnson played with the Cardinals from 2015-2019. In that time, he became the 10th-leading rusher in franchise history and is tied for third in touchdown runs.
He was a a first-team All-Pro in 2016, and will play in front of the Red Sea as an opponent for the first time Sunday.
Sunday is just the fifth ever meeting between these two franchises. The Cardinals are one of the league's oldest teams while the Texans are the youngest, debuting as an expansion team in 2002.
The two sides have played every four years since 2005 and have split the series 2-2.
The Texans beat the Cardinals 31-21 in 2017. Hopkins had 79 receiving yards and a touchdown for Houston and Watt did not play.
Cardinals safety Budda Baker, a rookie that year, had 13 combined tackles and a sack.
Players to watch
J.J. Watt will continue the upward trend that started three games ago, and will be his usual disruptive presence. Don't be surprised if he has multiple sacks against his former team.
Hopkins did not speak to media this week, but he has not been shy about making fun of his former team in the past.
We've seen other defensive players put their mark on games this season, and Simmons could very well do that on Sunday thanks to his versatility.