Kickoff: Sunday, November 19th , at 1:00 PM EST
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Betting Odds: HOU -4 O/U 47.5 Total via PFF.com
Writer: Matt Prendergast (@amazingmattyp on X/Twitter)
‘The Comeback Kid vs. Rookie of the Year’
Kyler Murray (Start, QB1)
In Kyler Murray‘s first game in approximately 11 months, he took the field at State Farm Stadium and looked like, well, Kyler Murray. There was a little bit of rust, but he looked good, overall. And fast, more importantly, which is going to be pretty critical going forward here because that offensive line doesn’t do a swell job of keeping him in a position to stay off the injury report. It didn’t matter last week; between his feet and his INCREDIBLY fast release on a majority of pass plays, he knocked off the rust pretty quickly.
I started Kyler in a league on faith last week because I trusted him a bit more than Jordan Love, and that faith was rewarded handsomely. I dare say it would have been a move of sheer brilliance had Kyler not lost a second rushing touchdown to notorious red zone vulture…uh, Clayton Tune? Isn’t that alter-ego of one of The Flash’s rogues gallery? I guess it was the right call to not make your tiny, recently mended superstar get shoved into a giant churning pile of meaty guys. At least not on his first week back.
This week, the Texans should provide opportunities to work out a few more kinks; their pass defense is allowing 246.4 a game, 24th in the league, and Murray has weapons to work with. That said, I’m not confident we have enough tape to determine which of them is going to settle into what slot in the pecking order once Kyler gets settled. Save for one, but that’s below. The ‘47.5 over’ listed above has me in agreement with the oddsmakers: this one should have the look and feel of a shootout at times, and Murray managers will benefit greatly.
James Conner (Start, RB), Rest of the Deck (Cut)
When he’s healthy, I like watching James Conner a lot; he’s a real meat-and-potatoes kind of runner. Works hard, does some stuff great, misses some opportunities sometimes, but you know what you’re getting…and at his best, that’s a solid RB2. That’s exactly what you got the first three weeks of the season until James took one of his frequent in-season holidays because he, at his core, is always kind of broken. He’s back now, just in time for this team to start trying to screw up their draft position in order to help the Bears hold tight to that number one spot (via the Panthers), which they will surely use wisely and not on a guy we’ll be telling jokes about as soon as Week 5 of next season.
But, I digress: Conner took 16 carries last week for 74 yards against a Falcons team that is currently 14th against the run. This week he faces the 24th-ranked team in that same category, and I look for the Cardinals to continue to use him as a bruiser who’ll eat up yards and encourage the Texans to not blitz Kyler to death. He has little competition for carries between the likes of Keontay Ingram and…Tony Jones Jr? Again with him this season? They traded for him with the Saints and then put him on the practice squad? Why? What do you even trade for a guy that level, like scratch and sniff stickers or a kicking tee or something?
Emari Demercado might be back this week too, but none of these guys were even remotely on any radar when Conner was healthy before, and thus return to the Land of Guys You Heard Of One Time. All of this explains the late addition to the mix: former New York Jets running back Michael Carter was released and signed by the Cardinals on Wednesday after being unemployed for merely a few hours. Carter won’t see too much work this weekend, but he should ascend to the RB2 slot in the depth chart before long.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Holywood Brown (Start, WR3), Michael Wilson (Start, Flex), Rondale Moore (Sit, Flex), Trey McBride (Start, TE1)
Trey McBride is real, and he is spectacular. He’s perhaps the biggest, most immediate benefactor of the return of Murray, whose tendency to make quick decisions and get that ball out like it’s about to explode. McBride, who turned eight of his nine targets into a monster of a game with 131 yards, clearly earning the early trust of his regularly scheduled quarterback. As the Texans have the capacity to get through the Cardinals’ offensive line, as Sheldon Rankins and company did on several occasions at Cincinnati, I would anticipate McBride enjoying a second consecutive big week, as he bailed out Murray on more than one occasion last week.
As for the three primary wide receivers, it’s harder to tell where it’s going to all shake out, but here’s what one week has me thinking: For starters, I don’t trust Marquise Brown even a smidge at the moment. He brought in one of his four targets last week, and while his first miss was more of a time-and-space issue that Kyler wasn’t quite warmed into right away, Hollywood dropped a catchable touchdown later on. All four targets looked to me like Brown is honed in on for home run attempts primarily, while the yeoman’s work is going to be spread more between Michael Wilson and Rondale Moore.
Wilson had a low-output week, but I can chalk that up to Kyler learning on the fly what the new guy can do: he narrowly missed out on a touchdown, and I would look for an increase in looks as we move forward, as the talent and potential is going to help Murray. Meanwhile, Moore had his best game of the year in terms of targets (8! Yay!), catches (5! Okay!), and yardage (43? Booooo!). So in one game, it looked like Rondale was suddenly a possession receiver.
I can’t rely on any of these numbers after one week, but I’m going to sit on WR3 for Brown and hope for that home run, and bet on Wilson getting at least a smidge more involved with the thought that he and Murray have gotten a whole extra week to become friends and play Call of Duty and increase his target share. The Cardinals will have some success in the air again this week, but I think McBride continues to benefit the most.
C. J. Stroud (Start, QB1)
9 weeks in, 15 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and back-to-back games over 350 yards (okay, the Tampa Bay game was WAY over 350 yards). We’ve reached the point where C.J. Stroud should be a regular starter for your fantasy team, regardless of matchup, until we see significant evidence of failure seeping into the cracks. And if you don’t have room for him — it’s fully understandable if Stroud was a late-round backup to your Mahomes, Hurts, Jackson, etc….well, then deal him now for a HUGE upgrade at a position of weakness.
He’s the real deal, so get the value while it’s peaking. The Cardinals should put up a little more resistance than the Bengals and Buccaneer’s pass defenses did, but they aren’t a top-10 unit either, and I just don’t think you can leave Stroud sitting in most situations anymore. And to pre-emptively answer the question that’s already on the tips of your typing fingers — yeah, I’d start him over Kyler this week, too.
Devin Singletary (Start, RB2*), Dameon Pierce (Sit)
So a couple of qualifiers here: First, I don’t expect that one week defines ‘fixed.’ Second: I’m assuming here that DeMeco Ryans will apply the same logic to his running game as he has all over the place, and performers get the playtime. Last week was the single most productive rushing game in Devin Singletary’s career — his previous best was a 110-yard effort in 2021. More importantly, it was also the most productive — nay, I say the ONLY productive rushing game that Houston has had all year. Sure, it took thirty carries for Devin to crank out those 150 yards, but he looked good, and more importantly, the Texans’ OL looked up to the task of blocking for a runner more often than not.
This could all go South in a hurry, I get it, but the Cardinals have allowed the fifth most rushing yards to opponents per game this season (134.2) AND the third most rushing touchdowns as well (14). I have to think that Houston is going to ride the lightning while it’s striking and continue with Singletary as the lead back for another week, with or without Dameon Pierce active. If Pierce returns to the Texans in time for this game, I’d maybe downgrade Singletary to Flex because I doubt they activate him and leave him to sit, but honestly, Pierce’s season has been a wash regardless of matchup this year. If I’m Houston, I just let him sit another week ‘to heal’. If he’s active, maybe drop your Devin expectations to Flex (thus the *), but in no situation do you need to consider DP, that’s just inviting unnecessary pain.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends UPDATED 11/19
Tank Dell (Start, WR2 ), Noah Brown (Sit ), Nico Collins (Start, WR3), Robert Woods (Sit), Dalton Schultz (Start, TE1)
Update: With the likelihood that Noah Brown will be out this week, or at best playing less than 100%, push Nico back up the line, and fade Noah
I’m not sure how this happened so quickly, but Nico Collins might have dipped to the Texans’ 4th-best receiving option in an incredibly breathtaking couple of weeks, through no fault of anyone (only his calf). It’s wild to think a guy who was their clear number one not even a month ago might not even be startable in fantasy — and once again, not due to his own performance — but the Texans are incredibly effective without him as a factor.
Regardless, we’re not sure he’s even back this week (again, note the *) — but as he was a game-time sit against the Bengals, let’s assume he’s a go. But even with a fully healthy Nico back in the fold (hopefully), I don’t see Tank Dell being supplanted as CJ’s first choice for fine targets and occasional end-arounds. I DO see him being supplanted on kick and punt returns sooner rather than later, because what are you nuts, DeMeco? You have plenty of other options back there — Robert Woods isn’t going to have much to do once Nico is back, so let Old Bob fair catch a half dozen and get speared another five or six times a game. He’s a wily veteran; he knows how to crumble up. Tank isn’t that big of a guy, you gotta bubble-wrap him when he’s not running routes. I kid.
As for Noah Brown, I’ve never seen an emergency check-down option average 24.6 yards per reception before that Bengals game, but this is where we’re at. It didn’t feel like more than one or two of the plays he was a factor in were designed to go his way as first, second, or third read, and he still got 172 yards from them. It’s probably biting off too much to think Brown has three consecutive 150+ yard games in him, but I also thought it was insane to think he’d have two his entire career, and I thought that as recently as last week.
I said it about Singletary above, and it applies here: ride the lightning and keep putting Brown in there while he’s hot. Noah runs angry too, I love that in a guy. As for your TE — Dalton Schultz has put in PPR TE1 performances in four of his last five games, continue to ride that train.