Everyone knows that March is a month of madness. Not just because of the NCAA tournament, but also because of NFL free agency. The landscape of the league is changing every minute, and the Arizona Cardinals are looking more and more attractive. So, while we all lose money betting on Loyola-Chicago to go the Final Four, let’s examine why the Cards should tickle the fancy of any NFL bettor.
Kyler “MVP” Murray
I’ve been saying for a while that I think Kyler Murray will win the MVP in 2021. The dude is a stud. I expect a 2019 Lamar Jackson type of season from him. Last year he accounted for 37 touchdowns, 11 of which were on the ground. The year before he only scored 24. His connection with DeAndre Hopkins will only get better. Considering Hopkins remains one of the best receivers in the league, opposing defenses are going to need a change of pants mid-game.
The year Jackson won MVP, he amassed 43 touchdowns. Considering Murray went from 24 to 37 in his first two seasons, it’s crazy to think he won’t score 40+ next year. He led the Arizona Cardinals to an 8-8 record this year, admittedly underwhelming. But if Murray puts together an MVP-caliber year, this team will find their way into the playoffs and easily win 10+ games.
Free Agency Fiends
Murray is clearly the X-factor for this team, but their offseason additions are going to make a big difference. J.J. Watt is the biggest signing they have made so far. After making the most badass signing announcement I have ever seen, Watt is reunited with D-Hop. Watt is one of the greatest defensive lineman of all time, and remains an elite NFL talent at 31 years old. He was an All Pro in 2018. Chandler Jones, who only played five games in 2020, was an All Pro in 2019. This defensive line has become one of the scariest in the league.
Did I mention they got A.J. Green? As a sad Bengals fan I know how good A.J. Green is. He has been plagued by injuries these past couple years, sure. But with Kyler throwing him the ball and defenses firmly glued to D-Hop’s hip, Green could easily have a comeback season. I’m not saying he will put together 1,000 yards, but his presence will make it harder for defenses to contain the Cardinals receiving corps. Yet another reason to expect big thins from Kyler.
The Cards also got Rodney Hudson, a three-time Pro Bowl center. This offensive line could definitely use some help, and Hudson is a great player. He will help protect Kyler, and free up running space for Chase Edmonds. I know they lost Kenyan Drake, but who cares? Edmonds looked better than him last year. They also lost Haason Reddick, which hurts. But his departure will give Isaiah Simmons more playing time. After being drafted 8th overall, Simmons rode the bench A LOT last year. Given the opportunity, I expect him to play at a very high level.
Goodbye, My Sweet Patrick Peterson
Losing Patrick Peterson hurts, there’s no way around it. He may not be the dominant player he has been in the past, but he’s still a great corner. That position is super weak right now, with Byron Murphy as the CB1. But, the Cards have the 16th pick in this year’s draft. Considering how well-rounded the rest of this roster is, I expect them to look for a corner to replace Pat Pete.
Luckily for them, there are quite a few talented prospects at that position. Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley, and Jaycee Horn would all be great selections for them. I would be shocked if all three of those guys are gone by the time they pick. Buddha Baker is an all-pro, and Byron Murphy is entering only his third season. Murphy went from allowing a 111.2 passer rating allowed in 2019, to only 92.5 in 2020. If he improves further and combines with these other pieces in the secondary, this could be a very strong unit.
May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor
As with all bets I like, the odds are undervaluing the Arizona Cardinals. They have the 18th best Super Bowl odds (+4000), the 9th best NFC Championship odds (+2000), and the worst NFC West Champion odds (+550). I like all of these bets, as a small investment could result in a huge payout. In particular, I like betting on the Cards to win the NFC West. The Seahawks are a mess and the 49ers QB situation is murky. The Rams will be a challenge, but I think these teams are more similar in talent than people realize.
Cardinals fans were in a dark place after watching Josh Rosen play like he was on a JV high school team. But then Kyler arrived. And then Hopkins. And now J.J. Watt. It’s only a matter of time when this team has a huge breakout season. All the signs point to it being this year, and yet the odds still treat the Arizona Cardinals like the 8-8 team they were last year. They are a worthwhile investment.