The Arizona Cardinals entered a new era last season, led by head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie QB Kyler Murray. After an uneven first season for both, the Cardinals finished with a 5-10-1 record, fourth-place in the NFC West. But there is plenty of hope for the future, and they’ll attempt to improve their record and get to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Arizona’s Over/Under win total is set at 6.5 according to the latest from the odds-makers at Scoresandstats. We’ll take a closer look at how the offseason has fared for them, as well as who’s coming up on their schedule, before giving you our official pick.
The Cardinals didn’t make a ton of additions, but the few additions they did make were sizable to say the least. The biggest acquisition was trading for Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins, who immediately becomes Arizona’s best wide receiver and gives Murray a huge target to throw to. They also improved their defense with three-year deals for Lions LB Devon Kennard and Bills DT Jordan Phillips, along with a one-year signing of Falcons LB De’Vondre Campbell. The bulk of Arizona’s remaining money went toward their own, as they placed the transition tag on RB Kenyan Drake and re-signed both LT D.J. Humphries for three years and the ageless WR Larry Fitzgerald for another season.
In order to acquire Hopkins, Arizona has to part with longtime RB David Johnson along with a couple of draft picks. As far as free agency goes, the Cardinals saw DE Rodney Gunter leave town after five seasons with the team to sign a three-year deal with the Jaguars. The team also lost role players like LB Joe Walker, now with the 49ers, as well as WRs Pharoh Cooper and Damiere Byrd, who signed with the Panthers and Patriots, respectively. Other veterans, including LB Brooks Reed and TE Charles Clay, remain unsigned.
Even though the Cardinals had just six picks, they were able to find some value, especially early on. Their first pick was a guy who fell to them at No. 8, Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons. Simmons is a hybrid player and one of the best defensive players in the class, and should be all over the field right away. Then in round three, they managed to draft Houston OT Josh Jones, who many expected to be taken in round one. Arizona would later continue bolstering the defense with Utah DT Leki Fotu and LSU DT Rashard Lawrence, as well as California LB Evan Weaver. They concluded their draft with Arizona State RB ENO Benjamin in round seven.
As members of the NFC West, the Cardinals will face each of their division rivals twice over the course of the season. They’ll also go up against the NFC East and AFC East, as well as the Redskins and Lions in back-to-back weeks. It’s a slate that according to the NFL’s strength of schedule ranking is the eighth-toughest in football. With Arizona’s opponents combining for a .518 winning percentage in 2019, only the 49ers have a tougher schedule among the division.
Speaking of the Niners, that’s who Arizona will see on the road to open the season. Following two home games with Washington and Detroit, the Cardinals will head on a lengthy road trip that has them playing the Panthers, Jets and Cowboys. Fortunately for them, they’ll follow that up with three straight home games with a bye week sandwiched in Week 8. Their Week 11 matchup against the Seahawks on the road will be the second time they play Seattle, the first coming at home leading into the bye. Throughout the final six weeks, Arizona will host the Rams, Eagles and Niners, while visiting the Patriots, Giants, and Rams. That final Rams game on the road will be their season finale.
Much of Arizona’s success will fall on the development of Murray and the improvement of the defense. Fortunately, the young QB now has the dynamic Hopkins to join Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk in an above-average unit. As far as the defense, the Cards are hoping that the new acquisitions like Simmons and Phillips can join vets like LB Chandler Jones and CB Patrick Peterson to improve a group that was among the worst in the league in 2019.
So where do the 2020 Cardinals stand? For me, it boils down to the fact that they won five games last season with a dismal defense and rookie QB. To put it into perspective, a stop in each game where Arizona’s offense gave the defense a lead in the final minutes of regulation or in overtime would have led to eight wins. The defense is much-improved, Murray should be better, and the addition of Hopkins gives them a true game-changing weapon down the field. I’m taking the Cardinals OVER 6.5 wins this season.
Take the Cardinals OVER at Realbookies.com; our favorite pay per head bookie site.