2020 Arizona Cardinals Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
I have a simple rule when it comes to offseason hype: beware the Trendy Team.
It happens every offseason; the bobblehead media latches onto a seemingly hot, up-and-coming team and spends months ramping up the Hype Machine. The result becomes a general consensus that this Trendy Team is ready to break out as some kind of against the spread sleeper.
Apparently, the 2020 Arizona Cardinals are this year’s Trendy Team.
Admittedly, there are reasons to be excited about this year’s squad. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo offense should be better in Year 2. Quarterback Kyler Murray had a sizzling audition last year as a rookie starting quarterback. And first round pick Isaiah Simmons was one of the most enticing prospects in April’s draft.
However, Arizona’s trade to get DeAndre Hopkins back in March is what really cranked things into overdrive. Hopkins, the best receiver in football, should give Kingsbury and Murray just the weapon that they need to ramp up an offense that was an underwhelming in 2019 at No. 21 overall and No. 17 in scoring.
Hopkins will team with ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald and intriguing Christian Kirk to give the elusive Murray three big-time targets. Running back Kenyan Drake was a revelation after being acquired from Miami, ringing up 814 total yards in his final eight games in Arizona last season. And the offensive line, comprised of veteran cast-offs and underachievers, still has untapped potential.
Kingsbury’s offense turned out to be overhyped and unimaginative last year. The hurry-up offense has been around in the NFL for decades, so he isn’t exactly the “innovative” mind that he was touted at. I do think that Kingsbury’s attack will be more potent this season, though, if only for the addition of Hopkins and everyone else’s increased familiarity with the playbook.
Offense shouldn’t be a problem for Arizona this year. But defense likely will be. Again.
Last year the Cardinals finished dead last in the league in total defense, allowing 402 yards per game. They surrendered 27.6 points per game (No. 28), and they had the league’s second-worst pass defense. Simmons, a linebacker-safety hybrid in the mold of a Brian Urlacher, and free agents Jordan Phillips and De’Vondre Campbell, were brought in to stop the bleeding. But depth and overall talent are a major issue for coordinator Vance Joseph.
I do feel like Arizona’s defense will benefit from more offensive support this season. The Cardinals were No. 31 in the league in time of possession, with their defense out on the field nearly 33 minutes per game. If the Cards can increase scoring and lengthen their possessions, then they should see marked improvement from the stop unit.
Improvement is being assumed for this team. That’s logical. But will this team improve enough to actually be a factor in the NFC West race? Is there even enough talent on this roster for some progress to make a difference?
I’m still not sold on Kingsbury as a long-term solution for this team. In spite of that, the young talent is undeniable. Arizona, despite being physically overmatched, was surprisingly competitive last season. And with the benefit of a significantly easier schedule this season, the Cardinals progress should show up in the win column.
After a season-opening game at San Francisco the Cardinals get four straight games – Washington, Detroit, at Carolina, at the Jets – against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year and aren’t expected to compete for the postseason this year. A stretch of three straight road games in Weeks 4-6, followed by a tussle with Seattle, is logistically the most difficult portion of Arizona’s season.
Arizona’s crossover opponents, the AFC East and NFC East, represent the two weakest divisions in the NFL. Combined with swing games against fellow last place teams Detroit and Carolina, and the Cardinals have one of the easiest schedules in the league.
I think that Arizona is going to get off to a hot start to the season. That will make everyone that spent the summer piling on this team’s bandwagon overconfident about Arizona’s true potential, though. These guys still have a long way to go, though, before they can compete at the top of the NFC West.
When betting on NFL futures, I don’t like to side with The Hype Machine. Despite that, I will hold my nose and pick Arizona to surprise some people this year.
Take Arizona Cardinals ‘Over’ 7.5 Wins.
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