It is time for the Cardinals and Kyler Murray to take that next step, and our first chance to see if they are ready to be a playoff team comes on Sunday in Tennessee.
J.J. Watt makes this an improved defensive line, and first-round pick Zaven Collins is expected to make an impact in the linebacking corps. Will it be enough to stop NFL rushing champion, Derrick Henry?
No. There is no stopping Derrick Henry. But there are degrees in which he kills you, and if he only kills the Cardinals a little instead of a lot, this improved Arizona offense can more than keep up with the Titans.
Kyler Murray vows to run less and pass more, and he definitely has the pass catchers to make that a good plan. DeAndre Hopkins remains a superstar, A.J. Green adds veteran leadership, and Rondale Moore is another great young talent to add to the mix.
With Chase Edmonds and James Connor in the backfield alongside Murray, this team is going to score a lot of points all season long, and especially against a bad defense like Tennessee’s.
Playing at home and with the NFL’s best running back, naturally, the Titans are the favorite. They also made one of the splashier moves in the offseason when they traded for future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones, which has their offense ranked among the NFL’s best.
But Tennessee didn’t address their defense much, and what was a bad unit in 2020 will be a bad unit in 2021. Expect to see Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is also the team’s top offensive coach, exploit this suspect defense.
The Titans will score and probably score often. Fresh legs on Henry are going to be hard to slow. But the Cardinals will also score and probably score often. Janoris Jenkins is a good cornerback, except when he’s tasked with covering receivers like Hopkins. To be fair, almost no one looks good trying to defend the three-time First-Team All-Pro.
Betting Pick: Cardinals (+3)
The Cardinals finished last season on a slide, while the Titans finished on a winning streak. But after a long offseason and a return to a normal training camp this summer, 2020 has very little bearing on what we’re going to see on Sunday.
On paper, this is a very even matchup, with the Titans earning the slight edge because of the challenge that Henry possesses. Still, Arizona will keep this game tight, and they have a great chance to cover this spread, even at only three points.
Betting Pick: Over 52.0
An even better bet than the Cardinals to cover is for the total to go over. The Titans last season hit the over in 75% of their games.
The Cardinals weren’t quite the same guarantee, hitting the over in only five of their last ten games, but that was largely because they were playing great defenses, and Kyler Murray was playing hurt. Everyone is healthy on two great offenses, and both defenses have big question marks.