The Cardinals capitalized on the organizational dysfunction in Houston by trading 10 cents on the dollar for DeAndre Hopkins during the 2020 off-season. The trade paid immediate dividends for second-year QB Kyler Murray and the Cardinals’ offense as they improved from 5-10-1 in Kliff Kingsbury’s first season in the desert to 8-8 (7-9 ATS) in his second season. Most organizations would love to see a three-win improvement in Year Two, but it’s the way the Cardinals got to .500 that left them feeling a bit hollow at the conclusion of 2020. The Cardinals started the season 6-3 record after the “Hail Murray'' victory over a good Bills team, but they ended the season with a thud with a 2-5 mark in their final seven games to miss the playoffs (-250) for the fifth straight season. Arizona went from competing for the NFC West title in early December to losing a win-or-go-home game in the season finale against the legendary John Wolford in his first career start.
The Cardinals scored the 13th-most points per game (25.6) and they allowed 12th-fewest points per game (22.9), which resulted in an 11-5 mark toward unders. Arizona ended the year with a 4-5 mark in one-score games and a perfect 3-0 record in contests decided by three scores or more, and they finished with the league’s 13th-best point differential (+43).
Arizona’s 2021 win total (8) climbed by a victory after a strong second season from Murray and some splashy off-season moves. The Cardinals topped their 2020 win total with their eighth victory of the season over the Eagles in Week 15. Entering this season, I have the Cardinals power rated as the 20th-best team in the NFL (+3300 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the 10th-best team in the NFC (+2000 to win the conference), and as the fourth-best team in the NFC West (+600).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|4||@Los Angeles Rams||+4.5||4:05|
|5||San Francisco 49ers||PK||4:25|
|8||Green Bay Packers||-3||8:20 (Thurs)|
|9||@San Francisco 49ers||+5.5||4:25|
|14||Los Angeles Rams||+2.5||8:15 (Mon)|
|16||Indianapolis Colts||-1||8:15 (Sat)|
The Cardinals have a tougher schedule just because of how competitive the NFC West will be this season, but they do at least have matchups against the Jaguars (Week 3), Texans (Week 7), and Lions (Week 15) mixed into their slate. Their easiest stretch of games comes in Weeks 10-15 with three of their five matchups coming against teams lined at 7.5 wins or worse in the Panthers, Bears, and Lions. The Cardinals caught a break since they’re one of 11 teams that won’t face an opponent coming off of a bye this season.
The Cardinals will face the ninth-toughest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football) thanks to a brutal stretch in Weeks 4-9. A matchup with the Texans in Week 7 is the only reprieve they’ll get during a span in which they’ll face off against the Rams, 49ers (x2), Browns, and Packers. They’ll once again have a tough time potentially closing out a playoff berth with matchups against the Colts, Cowboys, and Seahawks in the final three games of the season — each team is lined at 8.5 wins or better. The Cardinals also won’t have a huge rest advantage over the Bears coming off their bye in Week 12 since Chicago will have 10 days of rest after playing on Thursday the week before they square off.
Key Off-season Moves
|A.J. Green (WR)||Zaven Collins (LB)||Brett Hundley (QB)|
|Rodney Hudson (C)||Rondale Moore (WR)||Kenyan Drake (RB, LV)|
|James Conner (RB)||Marco Wilson (CB)||Larry Fitzgerald (WR)|
|Brian Winters (OG)||Dan Arnold (TE, Car)|
|J.J. Watt (DE)||Haason Reddick (OLB, Car)|
|Malcolm Butler (CB)||De’Vondre Campbell (OLB)|
|Shawn Williams (S)||Patrick Peterson (CB, Min)|
|Dre Kirkpatrick (CB)|
|Johnathan Joseph (CB)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||8 (-133/+110)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 8 (-110) in late March to 8 (-133)
Super Bowl: +5000 in early February to +3300
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Cardinals have hovered right around their win total in each of their first two seasons under HC Kliff Kingsbury and QB Kyler Murray, pushing their total in 2019 and surpassing it by half a win last season. Expectations have incrementally been raised in the desert and their roster has steadily improved, as well. They had just three picks inside the first five rounds of this year’s draft, but they used some of their draft capital to land blue-chip players in WR DeAndre Hopkins and C Rodney Hudson. The Cardinals’ offense has come a long way since Murray’s rookie season, and they’ll now trot out Hopkins, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, and Christian Kirk when Kliff spreads defenses out with four WRs. They’ve also steadily improved their offensive line over the last three years and Hudson will be the linchpin for this now above-average group.
Arizona’s success (or lack thereof) this season could hinge on the health of EDGE defenders Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt, who could form one of the league’s best pass-rushing tandems if they can stay on the field. Jones missed the final 11 games of last season with a biceps injury, but he averaged 15.0 sacks per season in his first four years with the Cardinals. Watt is by far the bigger question mark at this stage of his career, but he did make it through 16 games for the Texans last season. He’s still played in just 48 games over the last five seasons with a total of 26.5 sacks.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Cardinals are getting closer to making real noise in the NFC after bottoming out in 2018, which helped them land Kyler with the top overall pick. Even with their recent roster improvements, the Cardinals are still trailing the rest of the teams in the highly competitive NFC West. The Rams, 49ers, and Seahawks each have win totals sitting at 10 wins or more and they’re top-10 teams in the league based on Super Bowl odds. Murray will need to improve as a passer to make this team a true contender in the NFC. He’s been a much better fantasy QB than a real-life QB with his YPA sitting at a measly 7.0 yards through his first two seasons.
The Cardinals had a massive need at cornerback heading into the draft and they passed on top prospects like Greg Newsome and Caleb Farley at No. 16 to take LB Zaven Collins. They then drafted Moore at No. 49 before finally addressing their secondary in the fourth round by selecting CB Marco Wilson. The Cardinals could have one of the worst cornerback groups in the league this season, which is troublesome going against the Seahawks (D.K. Metcalf/Tyler Lockett), Rams (Robert Woods/Cooper Kupp), and 49ers (Brandon Aiyuk/Deebo Samuel) in the NFC West. They also need to see some major development from 2020 No. 6 pick Isaiah Simmons, who allowed five TDs on 206 coverage snaps.
Notable Player Props
Kyler Murray: passing yards (4100.5), rushing yards (675.5), MVP (+2000), OPOY (+2000)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (3995), rushing yards (690)
Best-Case Scenario: Kyler finally has a complete receiving corps in his third season after adding A.J. Green and Rondale Moore in the off-season, and he makes a significant leap as a passer after subpar results in his first two seasons.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Murray fails to improve upon his career 7.0 YPA average through two seasons and he falls short of 4000 passing yards once again even with an extra game and an improved receiving corps.
DeAndre Hopkins: receiving yards (1350.5), OPOY (+2500)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (1215)
- Best-Case Scenario: Hopkins continues his run of 150+ targets for a seventh consecutive season and he maintains his high-end durability after entering 2021 with just two missed games in eight seasons to start his career.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: A.J. Green saw 104 targets last season when he absolutely stunk for the Bengals, and he continues to see a significant target share in his new location to take a big enough bite of Nuk’s production.
Rondale Moore: receiving yards (550.5), OROY (+6600)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (565)
- Best-Case Scenario: Moore quickly dispatches Christian Kirk for the #3 WR spot in 11 personnel, and Kliff Kingsbury has a clear plan to get him weekly targets all over the field.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Moore struggles to carve out a significant enough role as a receiver as a rookie with the Cardinals running four deep at receiver, and his hamstring issues from his final two years at Purdue rear their head again.
Chase Edmonds: receptions (45.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receptions (50)
- Best-Case Scenario: Edmonds gets the biggest role of his young career with Kenyan Drake departing for Las Vegas. The increase in opportunities helps him to finish among the league leaders in receptions at the position.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: James Conner actually stays healthy and revitalizes his career in the desert while rookie Rondale Moore takes away some targets from Edmonds in his gadget role.
Arizona Cardinals under 8.5 wins (-125, BetMGM) — The Cardinals have a tough row to hoe playing in the NFC West with three of the top-10 favorites to win the Super Bowl in their division. The Cardinals and over bettors would gladly sign up for a 3-3 mark in divisional games this season. They also landed another Super Bowl favorite for their extra game this season in the Cleveland Browns. The fate of this win total could hinge on the health of their two older pass rushers, J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones, since they’ll need to cover up their glaring weaknesses in the secondary. I’m expecting the Cardinals to be right around .500 once again this season but I’m leaning under since they’re still the worst team in a loaded NFC West.
Chase Edmonds over 45.5 receptions (-110, PointsBet) — Chase posted 53 catches on 67 targets while playing 46% of the snaps last year, and I’m expecting his snap share to jump over 50% this season. Kenyan Drake is gone and the injury-prone James Conner is taking his place, and Edmonds will also get an extra game as a buffer. The only reason I’m hesitant to bet the prop is the presence of Rondale Moore in this offense. Moore could take away a few manufactured targets from Edmonds and his presence could also cut down Edmonds’ snaps in the slot after he ran 25.5% of his routes from the slot last season.