Home games: Washington, Detroit, Seattle, Miami, Buffalo, LA Rams, Philadelphia, San Francisco.
Road games: San Francisco, Carolina, NY Jets, Dallas, Seattle, New England, NY Giants, LA Rams.
Projected record: 9-7
Since moving on from Bruce Arians and the retirement of Carson Palmer, Arizona has spent a few seasons building to this point. The Cardinals now have the nucleus for success. A young and progressive head coach, a No. 1 overall quarterback who showed his talent in year one and to ensure that growth continues, one of the NFL’s premier receivers arrives in the desert to play alongside one of the great pass-catchers of the modern era.
The selection of Isaiah Simmons in round one of the draft was almost my favourite of the draft. He’s one of the more versatile defenders college football has seen.
6-3″ with great length and strength, Simmons blew everyone away with his 4.39 40-yard dash at the recent combine.
Patrick Peterson still anchors the secondary and will shadow the opponent’s No. 1 wideout on a weekly basis.
David Johnson departed in the DeAndre Hopkins deal but in truth, Johnson’s play had dipped from his two amazing seasons entering the league.
Hopkins is a beast! He lacks some of the speed of the elite receivers but he wins at the line of scrimmage every time and his hands are vice-like. You could argue Hopkins is as much tight end as he is wideout thanks to his playing style which should suit a young quarterback who is still finding his way in the NFL. The more safe throws Kyler Murray can make the better the Cardinals will be. Larry Fitzgerald moved from outside to the slot under Arians and whilst his productivity is not at ‘Larry Legend’ status he’s still providing big plays for an offence which should now be ready to roll.
Like all teams, though, the quarterback play will be the decisive factor between wins and losses. I saw Murray live last season in Cincinnati against the Bengals. He is tiny but his elusiveness and ability to find a gap is special. His frame will not tolerate too many hits, that’s for sure. Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds and Murray will give teams grief as a three-headed running machine.
Simmons will team up with Chandler Jones to form a nasty linebacking core with both having the ability to do almost everything – rush, cover and stop the run.
The Cards are almost where they want to be. Winning divisional games will be key and will likely be the reason they have a successful season or not, spurred particularly by Murray’s improvement in year two.