By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
The Arizona Cardinals went from punchline to looming threat in the deepest division in football seemingly overnight.
After being ridiculed for everything from hiring a head coach who couldn’t muster a record above .500 in the Big XII, to drafting a 5’10” ex-baseball star 1st overall to be your new starting quarterback after you just selected a quarterback 10th overall the season before that, the Arizona Cardinals appeared to be a franchise off the tracks.
Instead, as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and not only are the Cardinals a team that is poised to be heading in the right direction, after a fleecing of the Texans for arguably the best wide receiver in football DeAndre Hopkins, the Cards could be a team on the verge of contending for a playoff spot.
Cardinals 2019 Season Review
Entering the 2019 season, the Cardinals were coming off of a miserable 3-13 season that catapulted them into the position to get a do-over at the whole selecting a franchise QB in the draft thing, and after a season of using Josh Rosen as the team’s personal crash dummy before shipping him off to rot in Miami, Arizona would tab Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray to be the team’s franchise quarterback.
For Murray, it was a chance to continue to play in a similar offense to what he experienced in college thanks in large part of the Cardinals hiring Kliff Kingsbury.
For the Cardinals, it was the chance to do the NFL equivalent of the Men In Black memory erase and pretend that their offense wasn’t piloted by Mike McCoy and the quarterback super tandem of Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen.
The offense, and Murray, for the most part, played decently well in 2019, with the expected setbacks that come from having a rookie quarterback and first-year NFL coach.
While David Johnson would struggle mightily due the Cardinals offensive line and just not being a great fit within Kingsbury’s offense, Arizona would get an unexpected lift from a midseason trade for Kenyan Drake. Drake immediately found success in Kingsbury’s quick-tempo offense, running for 110 yards and a touchdown in his debut against the 49ers and then finishing the season with 363 yards and 7 touchdowns in his final three games.
Larry Fitzgerald would still be productive despite being in the NFL since the AFL/NFL merger and playing with a rookie coach and quarterback, and Chandler Jones would wreak havoc on the defensive side of the ball with 19 sacks.
That about summarizes many of the positives for a team that mustered only a 5-10-1 record in 2019, though it should be noted that Arizona plays in one of the toughest divisions in football, with the 49ers representing the conference in the Super Bowl and the Seahawks coming narrowly close to being in the NFC Championship game themselves.
The Cardinals were not without their warts in 2019 and did only win five games for a reason, as their defense outside of Chandler Jones was not good, giving up nearly 28 points per game while having a pass defense that ranked 31st in football.
Nonetheless, the defensive woes were slightly more palatable when Cardinal fans could see Kyler Murray’s progression and the potential of Arizona’s offense after ending the season with two wins in three weeks including a road-upset of Seattle.
Will Use 20% of their Signing-Bonus on Air Conditioning
WR DeAndre Hopkins (Texans)
DT Jordan Phillips (Bills)
LB Devon Kennard (Lions)
LB De’Vondre Campbell (Falcons)
T Kelvin Beachum (Jets)
DT Trevon Coley (Colts)
Will Have to Use Daylight Savings Time Again
RB David Johnson (Texans)
WR Pharoh Cooper (Panthers)
DE Rodney Gunter (Jaguars)
DE Zach Kerr (Panthers)
Cardinals 2020 Offensive Preview
Kliff Kingsbury was presumably the first name in Bill O’Brien’s contacts when O’Brien wanted to just give DeAndre Hopkins away for the equivalent of Gamestop store credit.
Not only did the Cardinals acquire a Top 5 wide receiver for next to nothing, but the team also managed to get rid of David Johnson’s rotting corpse and contract for the … trouble (?) of acquiring a great wide receiver for your 23-year old quarterback.
Pretty good start to the offseason.
In addition to Hopkins, the Cardinals would retain Kenyan Drake thanks to the transition tag and will return a running back that added a lot of juice to Arizona’s lineup after the Cardinals surprisingly acquired the speedy threat from Miami.
Larry Fitzgerald will also make his return to the desert after considering retirement, and the soon to be 37-year old receiver will join Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella as Hopkins’ counterparts in the passing game.
The Cardinals offense, while showing promise under Kingbury’s quick-tempo attack, will need better play from their offensive line however if they are to take that next step as a possible playoff team.
Arizona believes it has a steal in the making after drafting Josh Jones out of Houston in the third round, this after Jones was talked about as a possible first-round pick leading up to the draft.
Cardinals 2020 Defensive Preview
After stopping next to no one unless Chandler Jones sacked the quarterback on that particular drive, Arizona came into the 2020 offseason looking to improve on that side of the football.
The team made major additions at linebacker with the free-agent acquisitions of Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell, and most notably via the draft with the pick of the highly-touted specimen Isaiah Simmons from Clemson.
The Cardinals also chipped in the addition of Jordan Phillips from Buffalo to come play nose tackle, and now they hope to do enough to improve upon some truly dismal defensive numbers in 2019.
The secondary once again will be headlined by long time Cardinal Patrick Peterson and soaring star safety Budda Baker. Who plays opposite of Peterson will be the primary concern, as the team will hope 2019 2nd round pick Byron Murphy can fill the role, after struggling in his rookie season from time to time.
If Arizona’s defense can improve in 2020, that could be enough to vault them into prime position to finish near .500, which could very well put them in the new expanded 7-seed in the NFC.
Cardinals 2020 Outlook & Prediction
We are big believers in the Cardinals being a potential playoff team in 2020, as after committing highway robbery of the Houston Texans for DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals are in position with a favorable schedule and the right weapons in the right places to make a move at a playoff spot in the NFC.
If the defense continues to struggle however, or the offensive line doesn’t gel, the Cardinals could still struggle breaking through in what is arguably the best division in football.
We think Kyler Murray will continue to shine, especially with the addition of Hopkins, and the Cardinals will hover around the .500 mark all season before settling there with a potential playoff clinching 8-8 record.
Cardinals 2020 Projection: 8-8, 3rd place NFC West
Cardinals 2020 Betting Preview
We like the following futures bets concerning the Arizona Cardinals in the upcoming 2020 NFL Season.
- Arizona Cardinals OVER 7 Wins — (-115) at FanDuel Sportsbook
As mentioned in this projection, a favorable schedule and an infusion of talent await the Arizona Cardinals this season. We’re not quite sure if 8-8 can lock down the 7th playoff spot in the NFC, but it would carry the over on this bet. We love the Cardinals winning at least 8 games in 2020.
- Arizona Cardinals to Make Playoffs — (+260) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Again, we picture the Cardinals being right around 8 to 9 wins in the 2020 NFL Season, and that would place them right smack in the middle of the playoff race. At +260, this is well worth the wager.
- DeAndre Hopkins to Lead League in Receiving — (+1800) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Hopkins has topped 1500 yards receiving two times in the last five seasons, with a 1378-yard season thrown in between. This after playing with some very questionable quarterbacks until his fortunes recently changed with Deshaun Watson. Kyler Murray is going to look Hopkins way a lot in 2020, and Kliff Kingsbury is going to call a lot of passing plays to give him a great chance of stat-padding his way to a +1800 futures cash. Worth the shot.