HOUSTON -- The last thing the Houston Texans need right now is a reminder of past mistakes. Too bad one of the biggest in franchise history is waiting for them out west.
The Texans are on a five-game losing streak and headed to Arizona to face to the Cardinals. There, they will take on Kyler Murray and the last undefeated team in the NFL.
Behind maybe former Pro Bowl target Andre Johnson, Watt and Hopkins are the most decorated players in Texans' history. The two spent 17 years combined at NRG Stadium and became the faces of the franchise while donning the Steel Blue or Battle Red jerseys.
For Watt, this is likely nothing more than just a game. For Hopkins, it's so much more. He's waited for this moment since March of 2020.
Things in the desert could get ugly quick. How ugly? Remember when Houston couldn't score against the Buffalo Bills or Indianapolis Colts?
Yeah, uglier than that.
Hopkins hasn't forgotten when former head coach and de facto GM Bill O'Brien traded him for a second-round pick and running back David Johnson. He's referenced his "worth" multiple times on social media, calling out the Texans for letting him go for basically next to nothing.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are thriving. Offensively, they rank top 10 in all major categories. Defensively, they also are rank 10th in total yards allowed.
Arizona's also battle tested, having taken down the L.A. Rams and Cleveland Browns by a combined 74-34 score. They've also scored at least 30 points in five of their six total matchups.
Think that Hopkins isn't already planning on having a career day against his former team?
This is a new Texans regime led by coach David Culley and general manager Nick Caserio. Neither of them traded away Hopkins following a yet another 1,000-plus yard campaign in 2019.
Then again, the McNair family still owns the team. They approved the appointment of O'Brien as GM. They signed off on the dotted line to make the trade plausible.
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And while Hopkins is thriving in Kliff Kingsbury's system, the Texans are are still in shambles from what many consider the "worst trade in the NFL history."
Johnson's latest blunder happened Sunday in a 31-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, in which he fumbled the ball in Colts' territory. Meanwhile defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, the second-round pick used by Houston in the trade, has five tackles on the year and has yet to play more than 40 percent of snaps in a game.
Hopkins recently made two touchdown grabs against the Browns to bring his total to six for the season. He's on pace to break his career-high mark of 13 set back in 2017 with the Texans.
Watt, 32, might no longer be the same pass rusher he was during his three Defensive Player of Year seasons in Houston, but he's been effective for a team that is is the story of the young NFL season. He record his first sack last week against Browns QB Baker Mayfield. He also has 15 total tackles, five tackles for losses two batted passes at the line of scrimmage.
Watt left Houston in good standing. He asked the McNairs for a chance to play elsewhere following a 4-12 season and rebuild of the front office in 2020. They obliged, allowing the greatest defensive player in the history of the organization to pick where he wanted to play next.
He chose wisely. Right now, the Cardinals have the fourth-highest betting odds to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVI. Meanwhile, the Texans have the second-worst odds, just edging out AFC South rival Jacksonville.
Houston's woes continue on the road with rookie quarterback Davis Mills. All seven of his interceptions have come away from the 713-area code. He has produced only one touchdown in three games.
Injuries, lack of leadership and careless penalties also have plagued the roster since Week 1.
So much has changed since Hopkins and Watt last played together in Houston. The Texans were leading 24-0 after the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in a 2019 playoff game. They had just beaten Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, and were nearing a deal to keep franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson in the building for years to come.
Houston eventually lost that game. They've won five games since and did not own a first-round pick to make up for the mistakes. Watson now wants out after agreeing to a four-year extension and the team is second to last in the AFC.
Hopkins won't care. He likely has the mindset of a man on a mission. That mission? Remind Houston what they gave up for nothing.
The way Houston's looked on the road this season, Hopkins could have a record. Texans fans likely never imagined him posting those numbers on a different team.
Welcome to the nightmare that seems to never end.