The Arizona Cardinals started the NFL season 7-0 but have tripped up in recent weeks. Still, they’re among the favourites to win Super Bowl LVI.
Kyler Murray put himself into the MVP conversation as the offence scored a whopping 32.1 points per game. His connection with DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and James Conner translated into 17 touchdowns before Murray left the field with an ankle injury in Week 8. Still at $11 to win the Most Valuable Player award, a strong return – hoped to be in Week 13 – could set Murray up for a late run at the award. In the meantime, Colt McCoy has done an admirable job filling in. The Cardinals lost to the Green Bay Packers when Murray went down in Week 8 but wins over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 9 and Seattle Seahawks in Week 11 has Murray returning to a 9-2 team – the best record in the NFL.
Cardinals have played three games without Kyler Murray and still have the best record in the NFL.
— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) November 22, 2021
Few expected the Cardinals to be quite this good. With Murray, Hopkins, Green and Conner running around there was always a chance they’d catch fire and pile up points. Consistency and cohesion presented as possible problems, though. As it turns out, the Cardinals can produce consistent performances and shape as a team that will only improve over the second half of this season.
So, can this surprise packet win Super Bowl LVI?
Why The Cardinals Can Win It
The Cardinals play with a high-powered offence. While defence is often attributed to winning championships in every sport, an offence like that of the Cardinals always gives you a chance.
Rank after Week 11:
Total Points: 1st – 310
Touchdowns: 1st – 38
Big Plays (25+ yards): 1st – 34
Big Plays Passing (25+ yards): 1st – 30
Games with 4+ TDs: 1st – 7
Games with 3+ TDs: T-1st – 9
Rushing TDs: T-1st – 17
They’ve scored 30+ points seven times already this season. Finding the endzone isn’t a major issue and they’ve made it look easy at times. For comparison, the Cardinals only scored 30+ seven times across all of last season.
Arizona are 5th in total yards this season. They get up the field and have found plenty of success in 3rd and 4th down conversions. Fifth in red zone attempts with 44 this season, the Cardinals turn 70.5% of their visits to the red zone into touchdowns – the third-best conversion rate behind the 49ers (77.8%) and New Orleans Saints (71.1%). A lot of that comes down to the impressive performance of James Conner this season.
He’s a man on a mission and his 12 rushing touchdowns are good for 2nd in the NFL. With Murray (3), Chase Edmonds (1) and Eno Benjamin (1) also adding to the rushing touchdown total, the Cardinals are flushed with options around their aerial talent of Hopkins and Green.
Over 5 games in AZ, Zach Ertz is averaging 9.3 yards per target, has caught 75.9% of his targets and would be on pace for 10 TD over a full season. All 3 would be career highs.
Oh and the 2 games with Kyler, he averaged 12 yds/target while catching 7 of his 9 targets and a TD.
— Mac (@azsportsfien) November 24, 2021
While it is the offence that is making headlines, Arizona’s 18.4 points conceded per game is the fourth-lowest mark in the NFL so far this season. Led by J.J. Watt the Cardinals have improved on their 22.9 points conceded per game last season, and that’s with Watt missing time in 2021.
Why They Can’t Win It
It’s difficult to look at any area of this Cardinals team right now and find any glaring issues that will stop them from winning Super Bowl LVI.
They’re doing it on both sides of the ball and look as though they will improve when they’re back to full strength in the coming weeks. Injuries can obviously derail their season. While they’ve made it through recent weeks without Murray, Watt and others, they’re not going to get through the playoffs and into the big dance with the same injury toll. Murray, in particular, is crucial to their success.
Arizona will play out one of the easier remaining schedules in the league. They’ve so far gone unbeaten on the road (6-0) and won all of those games by double digits. They’re only the fourth team in NFL history to win six straight on the road by 10+ points. With a relatively easy schedule remaining (Rams, Cowboys and Colts are their toughest opponents to come) on the back of a historically good start, could the Cardinals be at risk of not having enough difficult games throughout the NFL season? It will tighten up in the post-season and for a relatively new-look team, experience in tough games can be the difference between two even teams.
24 or 32 NFL teams have 6 total wins or less.
The Arizona Cardinals have 6 road wins alone.
— Alex Clancy (@ClancysCorner) November 22, 2021
If the Cardinals are as good as their start to the 2021 NFL season suggests they are, then it comes down to other teams and how well they perform to finish the year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the current favourites to win Super Bowl LVI at $6.50. They’ve not looked quite as good after winning it last season, but Tom Brady…
While the Kansas City Chiefs struggled to start the year they’re well and truly on the up at the moment. Their defence has done a good job in recent weeks and that consistency will lay a platform for Patrick Mahomes to get back to his best. They’ve come into $8 from $11 a month ago.
The Buffalo Bills may have listened and read to too many home journalists after their strong start to the year. Once talked about as a team that might only lose two or three games all season, they’ve dropped to 7-4 and to $9 in the Super Bowl market. Still, they’re ahead of the Cardinals at $9.50 who still have something to prove when Murray returns from injury.