Glendale, AZ - The Arizona Cardinals were one of the highest-scoring teams in the NFL during their run to the Super Bowl last season, but they've been largely contained in 2009.
A repeat performance from the Houston Texans defense could extend Arizona's offensive woes.
The Cardinals look to reclaim last season's form Sunday when they host the Texans, coming off an encouraging defensive outing after a frustrating start to the season.
Oddsmakers from online sports book BetOnline have made the Cardinals –5.5 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on the Cardinals –5.5 (View NFL bet percentages).
Arizona tied for third in the NFL with 26.7 points per game last season, riding a dynamic offense to its first division title in 33 years. The Cardinals were even more prolific in the playoffs, averaging 31.7 points before falling to Pittsburgh 27-23 in their first Super Bowl appearance.
However, they haven't had the same chemistry early in 2009. Besides committing seven turnovers, Arizona (1-2) is tied for 20th in the league with 19.0 points per contest and tied for 27th with six total touchdowns.
The Cardinals have been pointing to their lack of attention to detail and their susceptibility to turnovers since the preseason, but they have been unable to do much to fix those problems.
"That's what we have to figure out," said quarterback Kurt Warner, who has four TDs and four interceptions after totaling 30 and 14, respectively, in 2008. "Why is that continuing to happen. We all talk about it. We're all saying the same things, but why does it continue to happen? That's the problem we have to solve."
Despite the slow start, coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn't changed his opinion of how good the Cardinals can be.
"I'm not discouraged with our team because I know what we have in the locker room," Whisenhunt said before Arizona's bye last weekend. "I know the way our players work and I can promise you this: We're going to come out here and work hard to get back to the way we know we can play."
Warner probably benefited significantly from the week off. The 38-year-old former MVP was battered by a fierce pass rush in a 31-10 home loss to Indianapolis on Sept. 27. He passed for 332 yards and a touchdown but also threw two picks and got sacked four times.
Warner could get a lot more pressure from Houston if the Texans (2-2) can deliver another defensive performance like last week's.
After giving up a league-high 436.3 yards per game in their first three, the Texans held Oakland to 165 in a 29-6 win last Sunday. It was the second-lowest yardage total allowed in team history and fewest since Houston held Jacksonville to 126 in a 21-0 win Dec. 26, 2004.
The Texans forced three turnovers against the Raiders and got their first safety in almost seven years.
"Everybody was having fun," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "When you're having fun you have confidence in what you do. You don't second-guess. You don't pull up when you can (go full speed) and that's when you make big plays."
Houston's defense thrived even though safety Eugene Wilson couldn't play and linebacker Xavier Adibi was limited to special teams duty. Texans tight end Anthony Hill had the NFL's first confirmed case of swine flu last week, and the team is being careful with other players who could have contracted it.
Wilson was so ill he could barely walk last week, but the team doctor said he isn't sure Wilson "had the same syndrome" as Hill. Rookie linebacker Brian Cushing stayed home from practice Wednesday with flu-like symptoms.
Dr. Jim Muntz wouldn't say exactly how many players have been sent to him with flu-related symptoms.
"I couldn't give you the numbers," he said. "There were a number of people before the game (last Sunday) that were sick. A couple of them showed up the morning of the game with new symptoms. A couple of them had GI symptoms that I do not think were swine flu and did not get treated as such."
Steve Slaton has been healthy but had a quiet first three weeks before scoring his first two touchdowns of the season last Sunday, rushing for 65 yards and adding 24 on two receptions.
This will be the second meeting between Houston and Arizona. The Texans won the first matchup 30-19 at home Dec. 18, 2005, despite getting outgained 301-253. Warner was 10 for 10 for 115 yards and a touchdown before leaving with a knee injury that kept him out for the entire second half.
Posted: 10/7/09 4:55PM ET