The Arizona Cardinals begin their regular season quest Sunday against the Tennessee Titans with their sights set on returning to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
After watching a promising start to 2020 turn into an 8-8 finish and a missed opportunity to cash their playoff ticket, the Cardinals retooled the roster with a handful of offseason additions both in free agency and through the 2021 NFL Draft.
But how does Arizona’s new-look roster stack up against the rest of the NFL?
A look at how the Cardinals rate across national power rankings ahead of Week 1:
Malcolm Butler was placed on the reserve/retired list last week, a surprise move that leaves a worrisome void in the secondary. The Cardinals thought they had found their replacement for Patrick Peterson when they signed Butler to a one-year deal, but the team now might have to throw rookie Marco Wilson directly into the fire against the Titans in Week 1. The Cardinals have promise on defense — especially in the middle with linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins — but you get the feeling Kyler Murray might have to carry this team in some shootouts to make Arizona a playoff team.
The Cardinals have the talent to make a run at a playoff spot. But given their circumstances and brutal division, it’s just as likely they lose double-digit games.
Super-Bowl win probability: 2%
Highest-Graded Player: LT D.J. Humphries (88.3)
I’m still waiting for the Kliff Kingsbury offense, at least the version I had imagined when he was hired, to show up. The additions of A.J. Green and rookie Rondale Moore should help to supercharge the team’s passing game, but this could be a make-or-break season for Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.
This is a make-or-break season for Kingsbury. Arizona has made steady improvement the past two seasons, going from three wins to five in 2019 — Kingsbury’s first season — and from five to eight last season. But Arizona didn’t make the playoffs last season for the fifth straight year, going into a tailspin after starting 5-2, thanks in part to an injury to quarterback Kyler Murray. If Arizona doesn’t make the playoffs in 2021 for any reason besides major injuries, it is hard to think that Kingsbury will be the coach in 2022.
It’s playoffs or back to college for Kliff Kingsbury. (Prediction: It’s back to college for Kliff.)
The Cardinals have a lot of talent but are stuck in the toughest division in football. But it’s now Year 3 for Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, so the expectations are higher.