The Arizona Cardinals have climbed the past three seasons from a young 5-10-1 squad in 2019 to the playoffs last year.
They were one game short of reaching the postseason in 2020 before getting over the hump in 2021.
NFL.com’s Adam Rank covered the Cardinals in his state of the franchise series, and he claimed a successful season for Arizona in 2022 includes taking the obvious next step: winning a playoff game.
I’m not sure anybody is in danger of losing their jobs or anything like that. Keim and Kingsbury were recently extended through 2027 … But fans agonize when their teams don’t win playoff games. And there is a growing cloud around the coach that I would like to see dissipate.
Arizona has not won a playoff game since the 2015 campaign, and the top team in the NFC halfway through last season went out 34-11 against the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card round.
Rank noted that a playoff run would alleviate some of the stigma Kingsbury and the team have faced regarding last season’s collapse and lack of playoff results.
The Cardinals have a difficult road to get back to the playoffs, though, due to a tough schedule. They also must manage without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins while he serves a six-game suspension to begin the year, not to mention the loss of edge rusher Chandler Jones in free agency.
Rank went over some of his top questions entering the season, including how the offense will function early on, which is typically a fruitful stretch of the season for Arizona under Kingsbury.
… Losing D-Hop to a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy is going to have a big impact. Hopkins missed seven games last year, and the team averaged 9.2 fewer points per game during those contests than it did when he played, going 3-4. When you add Hopkins’ absence from the playoff loss to his six-game suspension, he will have missed at least 11 consecutive games by the time he returns in 2022.
Rank also listed several key games, a standout being Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. It will be Hopkins’ return and a test for Arizona against another NFC playoff contender. Rank noted this game could have major implications down the stretch, which may include a tie-breaker.
The Cardinals face four 2021 playoff teams in six games ahead of Week 7.