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Forget the Alamo: Arizona Cardinals Must Whup Hubris and the Houston Texans to Salvage Their Season

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Three years ago, Suns fans considered Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers their personal bitches.

Two years ago, D-Backers openly lampooned the hapless, pre-Joe Torre L.A. Dodgers.

Last year, Arizona Cardinals fans noisily pooh-poohed the antics of the San Francisco 49ers and the team's head coach, Mike Singletary, who dropped his drawers in an ill-advised (though not entirely unsuccessful) attempt to make a statement.

The ancient Greeks understood that hubris rarely goes unpunished, and contemporary Phoenix sports fans are getting used to the feel of the lash. Today, the L.A. Lakers, L.A. Dodgers, and San Francisco 49ers are everywhere our local sports franchises would like to be.

Lakers: World champs. Suns: Failed to make the playoffs.

Dodgers: Up 2-0 on Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series best-of-five. D-Backs: 90 wins two years ago; 92 losses in '09.

49ers: In the catbird seat of the NFC West race; thumped the defending NFC champs at home in week one. Cardinals: From 2:37 away from winning the Super Bowl to a razor-close shave with a local-TV blackout a mere four weeks into the season.

It's odd that every game thus far has seemed like a must-win for the Cards. Because they bellied up against the Niners and Colts at home, the one on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium against the Houston Texans truly is. The 3-1 49ers, barring complete collapse, could and should win 10 games, with an upcoming schedule that includes the Texans, the 0-4 Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville, Seattle, Detroit, and the St. Louis Rams (who they whupped 35-0 in week four).

The math says the Cards must go 9-4 the rest of the way, then hope for a favorable tiebreaker, with a schedule that still includes the Giants in New York, the Bears at Soldier Field, Brett Favre and the Vikings, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and Mike Singletary's Niners at Candlestick.



And more or less a moot point if they choke another one away at home against the Texans.

The good news -- unless tempting the fates strikes you as ill-advised -- is that the Texans seem like the perfect tonic for the struggling Redbirds. Arizona, coming off a bye and presumably motivated to show the rest of the world they're champs-not-chumps after being manhandled by Peyton Manning on national TV, should easily win this one. Houston, 2-2, has been humbled at home by the Jets and the lowly Jaguars, and the team barely edged the winless Titans. The Texans' only convincing win was last weekend against the Raiders, 29-6. (Whoop-de-do.)

Gary Kubiak's team ranks 25th in total defense, 29th in run defense. The Texans have been unable to shut down opposing rushers or rush opposing passers, despite their signing of former Card Antonio Smith to a big-bucks free-agent deal in the offseason. (The now-filthy-rich Smith has 0 -- zip -- sacks, and the team's top pass rusher, Mario Williams, didn't practice most of the week because of a bruised shoulder.)

A combo of quarterback Kurt Warner with time to get a manicure in the backfield and rookie running back Chris "Beanie" Wells slashing through the Texans' lines like Santa Anna at the Alamo sounds downright dreamy.

However, in the interest of averting hubris, we must point out that the Cards' offensive line hasn't been able to stop anyone's basic 4-rush yet, that Arizona's pass rush ain't exactly world-class, either, that Beanie's got butterfingers (until proven otherwise), and that the Texans boast a potent Cardinals-like offensive set-up with pinball-machine quarterback Matt Schaub and hot-shot receiver Andre Johnson (who's every bit as good as our own Larry Fitzgerald and who'll be covered by -- urk -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie).

Oh, yeah, one more thing for students of historical chutzpah: The Texans might have lost that big battle at San Antonio de Bejar, but they won the war.

Game time: 1:15 p.m. TV: CBS (Channel 5). Radio: KTAR-FM 92.3. More info: www.azcardinals.com.

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