Why the Cardinals are still underlooked in the NFC this offseason

By: Reese Nasser

The Arizona Cardinals, after having an excellent start to their 2020 season, finished in the middle of the pack with an 8-8 record. This mediocrity seems to still be following the Cardinals into the off-season.

The team is projected to finish near the bottom of the division. Albeit a very strong NFC West, a bottom finish will not be good for Arizona. The fans and players alike are expecting a big leap from last season to this one. But this doesn’t change how the team is being viewed. The expectations are low from people on the outside. Here are a few reasons why the Cardinals are still being underlooked. 

Coaching

Apparent offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury has been the Cardinals coach for two seasons now. He has a record of 13-18-1 during his time in the NFL. Kinsgusry was considered one of the greatest offensive minds in football when he was hired by the Cardinals. 

During his time as the head coach of Texas Tech, his passing attack was a thing of beauty. The unit finished in the top-10 in scoring every year that Kingsbury was there.But this offensive display has not necessarily translated to the NFL. The offense at times has looked mediocre at best, even with some of the most talented players in the NFL. Over the last two seasons, the Cardinals have ranked 16th and 13th in point differential. The offensive unit is much different than what many envisioned when Kingsbury was brought in. His mediocre playcalling and apparent misuse of wide receiver Deandre Hopkins has led to some believe that this offensive experiment may not work. 

As Kingsbury has underperformed during his time in the NFL, the Cardinals will continue to be underlooked. Expect to see a much improved unit this upcoming season. Kingsbury knows that the pressure may be on him and this team will have something to prove come the start of the season. 

Kyler Murray

The play of Kyler Murray up to this point has been soemwaht inderappeactied which may lead to the Cardinals being underlooked up to this point. Much like the rest of the offense, Murray started out the season extremely well. Up until the halfway point, many believed that Murray was a potential MVP candidate. 

After week eight, the offense began to slow down. Murray, who had been a touchdown machine, stopped producing scores. By the end of week eight, Murray had already racked up 24 touchdowns. Throughout the rest of the season, he only added 12 more scores. Murray had only three games where he had three touchdowns or more, unlike the first eight games where he had six games of three or more touchdowns. 

The offensive issues derailed the season and much like a coach takes a majority of the blame, so does the quarterback. Murray is the face of this team and his play dictates how this unit will be viewed. His highs are the teams high and his lows and the team’s lows. As Kyler steps into year three, if he wants this team to be regarded as a top contender, he will have to prove the league wrong and ball out for a full 16 games. An MVP, and possibly a super bowl, will be in his future if he can lead this unit like he can. 

Strength of Divison

The Cardinals play in what is arguably the toughest division in football. The NFC West consists of the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Los Angeles Rams. 

All three of the teams that the Cardinals share a division with saw themselves get better since the season ended. 

Arizona has also improved but it arguably has not been like the other teams in the division. The Rams have a new QB1 in Matthew Stafford. The 49ers selected North Dakota State qb Trey Lance with the third overall pick and he is destined to be the future of the franchise. And the Seahawks have Russell Wilson. They will always be in the conversation for the best team in the division based solely on the fact that Wilson is their guy.

This Cardinals team has added strong role players such as wide receiver A.J. Green and running back James Conner. They had a strong draft that added starters on both offense and defense. But it still doesn’t seem to be enough. They have a 30/1 odds of winning the super bowl, the third best out of the teams just in their division and the same as the Seattle Seahawks. Expectations are not absurdly high for this and mediocrity is basically expected by many people around the NFL. This notion will only change if Arizona can make it change. This team as a whole must be better in order to get the attention that they deserve. And if all goes right, they will be better. 

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