The Arizona Cardinals will enter the 2021 NFL season with plenty of optimism, but they are also going to be facing a big challenge this season. Arizona should have a team that is talented enough to make the NFL Playoffs, but they also play in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
The Cardinals are the oldest team in NFL history, but this is not a team that has a ton of winning history. Arizona is still looking for its first Super Bowl win, but there were a pair of championships that occurred before the Super Bowl era.
Arizona did win the NFC back in 2008 but was not able to come away with a Super Bowl title that season. Things looked promising for the Cardinals for much of the 2020 season, but the team fell apart down the stretch.
With their top draft pick quarterback Kyler Murray leading the way, optimism is high for the Cardinals in what could be an excellent season for the franchise. Arizona is still going to have to go out and prove it on the field, and they aren’t going to be one of the betting favorites when they enter the 2021 season.
The Arizona Cardinals entered the 2020 season with plenty of optimism as it was the second year for head coach Kliff Kingsbury. This team was expected to have the potential to be a great offensive team, and the Cardinals looked the part for the first part of the season.
Arizona went just 5-10-1 in 2019, and the Cardinals were able to surpass that win total in the first nine games of 2020. After roaring out to a 6-3 record to begin the season, it appeared that the Cardinals were set to become a playoff participant in 2020.
The Cardinals went just 2-5 down the stretch in 2020 and ended up in third place in the NFC West Division. Arizona actually still had a chance to reach the playoffs with a win in Week 17, but a loss to the Los Angeles Rams kept them out of the playoff field.
Murray, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and safety Budda Baker were all named to the Pro Bowl a season ago after having a terrific year. Murray and Hopkins were able to form one of the best offensive duos in the NFL in 2020, and that trend should continue this season.
Injuries were a concern during the 2020 season, especially when it came to quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray continues to look to escape the pocket when it breaks down, and that leaves him susceptible to taking a number of big hits.
Arizona went just 2-4 against NFC West opponents a season ago, which was one of the biggest reasons they failed to reach the postseason. The Cardinals went just 4-4 at home during the 2020 season, and that record will need to improve if they want to become a real threat to reach the postseason.
The biggest problem facing the Arizona Cardinals this season is that they play in the NFC West Division. There is little debate that the NFC West should be the toughest division in the NFL this season, and it might not be a good thing for the Cardinals.
Arizona looked like a team that was poised to win the NFC West to begin the 2020 season, but things are just so difficult in this division. All three opponents in the NFC West appear to have gotten significantly better this offseason, to make matters worse.
The Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West Division a season ago, and they return Russell Wilson as their starting quarterback. There were some rumors that Wilson was looking for a trade this offseason, but he will be back to provide a huge threat to the Arizona defense.
The Los Angeles Rams also made the playoffs a season ago after defeating the Cardinals in Week 17. The Rams were able to battle through some adversity a season ago but still found a way to reach the postseason.
The Rams made a big splash in the offseason by acquiring quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions. Stafford is not a quarterback that has had much team success in his career, but he has put up some impressive numbers.
The San Francisco 49ers had a disappointing 2020 season, but this is a team that was in the Super Bowl just two years ago. San Francisco was hit hard by injuries during the 2020 season, and they will be another team that has a chance to be a Super Bowl contender this year.
This division should be extremely competitive in 2021, and the Cardinals will have to find a way to win more divisional games if they want to compete.
The front office for the Arizona Cardinals was not happy with the 8-8 finish in 2020, and there was a major push to improve this team in 2021. Few teams in the NFL were as aggressive this offseason as the Cardinals, and the team made a number of big splashes.
The biggest move that the Cardinals made this offseason was adding J.J.Watt on the defensive side of the ball. Watt is no longer one of the best defensive players in the league, but he is still good enough to be a weapon on that side of the football.
Wide receiver A.J. Green was also brought in to Arizona, and that will give Murray another terrific option at the wide receiver position. Green has lost a few steps as he nears the end of his career, but he is still a significant piece on offense.
Arizona wasn’t done yet after adding both Watt and A.J. Green, and the front office continued to bring in some additional talent. Linebacker Markus Golden and cornerback Malcolm Butler were also added, and those are significant moves for this team.
Even though most NFL experts would agree that the Cardinals upgraded their team this offseason, there are still some big losses that could hurt. Starters on both the offense and defense were lost in free agency, and it’s going to be tough to replace some of this production.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson is the biggest loss for the Cardinals as he has signed a new one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Peterson made eight straight Pro Bowls with the Cardinals and was an All-Pro three different times while wearing the Cardinals uniform.
Another big loss on the defensive side of the ball will be losing linebacker Haason Reddick to the Carolina Panthers. Defense is going to be a huge key to the Cardinals’ success this season, and not having Reddick could be an issue.
On the offensive side of the ball, running back Kenyan Drake has signed a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. Drake had some big games for the Cardinals over the last few years, and not having him in the fold takes away a significant weapon.
There will be some other pieces missing when the Cardinals start the 2021 campaign, but these three players are the biggest losses that could have an impact.
|Week 1||September 12||At Tennessee Titans|
|Week 2||September 19||Vs. Minnesota Vikings|
|Week 3||September 26||At Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Week 4||October 3||At Los Angeles Rams|
|Week 5||October 10||Vs. San Francisco 49ers|
|Week 6||October 17||At Cleveland Browns|
|Week 7||October 24||Vs. Houston Texans|
|Week 8||October 28||Vs. Green Bay Packers|
|Week 9||November 7||At San Francisco 49ers|
|Week 10||November 14||Vs. Carolina Panthers|
|Week 11||November 21||At Seattle Seahawks|
|Week 13||December 5||At Chicago Bears|
|Week 14||December 13||Vs. Los Angeles Rams|
|Week 15||December 19||At Detroit Lions|
|Week 16||December 25||Vs. Indianapolis Colts|
|Week 17||January 2||At Dallas Cowboys|
|Week 18||January 9||Vs. Seattle Seahawks|
At first glance, this looks like a brutal schedule for the Arizona Cardinals, especially after their bye in Week 12. The fact that the NFC West is going to be so competitive this year doesn’t help, and there are tough games throughout the season.
Starting off the year in Tennessee against the Titans is a rough way to start, as that team should be one of the best in the NFL this season. Weeks 4-6 will be a difficult stretch early in the season, as the Rams, 49ers, and Browns are all expected to be playoff contenders.
After the bye, the Cardinals will finish with four of their final six games against playoff teams from a season ago. The Dallas Cowboys are also on the schedule, and they are one of the favorites to win the NFC East.
If Arizona is going to find a way to win the NFC West this season, then they are going to have to pick up some upset wins along the way.
As mentioned earlier, the NFC West is expected to be extremely competitive this season, and this is reflected in the future betting odds. Here are the current odds to win the NFC West:
San Francisco 49ers +185
Los Angeles Rams +195
Seattle Seahawks +270
Arizona Cardinals +600
Even though the Cardinals are an underdog, they aren’t as big of an underdog as fourth-place teams in other divisions.
Arizona currently has odds set at +1800 to win the NFC this season, and they are +4800 to win the Super Bowl. These odds could get slashed if the Cardinals are able to get off to a good start.
The over/under for wins for Arizona this season is currently set at 8.0, and remember that there are now 17 games in the regular season. The over is -130, and the under is +110.
When looking to bet on the Cardinals to make the playoffs, betting “Yes” is being offered at +170. Betting against Arizona to make the playoffs in 2021 is currently offered at -220.
It might seem like the Cardinals don’t have much of a chance to compete in the NFL this season, but this team is clearly capable. Making the playoffs or winning the NFC East is always the first step. Hey, there’s always baseball in Arizona, right?