The Cardinals are not making the Play-Offs in 2020
The Cardinals are not making the Play-Offs
The Arizona Cardinals are receiving a lot of hype heading in the 2020 season but frankly I don’t see it, especially when you break it all down. The Cardinals are a nice promising team but are not built to make the play-offs just yet. The primary reason they are getting this huge insurgence of hype is that since 2002 there has only been 2 seasons where a team did not go from worst to first, however, in my view the Cardinals have zero chance of doing that in 2020.
Below I have broken down the reasons I don’t believe the Cardinals are deserved of their hype and why they will not make the play-offs in 2020.
1. Kyler Murray is not Mahomes or Lamar
Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson made huge leaps in their 2nd years in the league which has led many to view Kyler Murray on the same trajectory, however, before Mahomes and Lamar no one was doing this, quarterbacks took longer than one season to become elite, Lamar and Mahomes are simply generational talents who happen to have been drafted one year after the other, this is not some trend every quarterback is going to jump on. Kyler has some great abilities and is almost a mix of Lamar and Mahomes, but he didn’t exactly have a spectacular rookie season that would indicate MVP is ahead for him in 2020.
Mahomes and Lamar were also both playing on elite rosters with great front offices and coaching staff who built around them to allow them to succeed in both their first and second year, the same cannot be said for Kyler who’s team drafted a quarterback in the first round the year before they drafted him and employed a coach who went 35-40 at the collegiate level.
It should also be noted that even when Lamar and Mahomes elevated their play in their second year their records did not necessarily get better in the regular season. Mahomes went from 12-4 to 11-3 and Lamar went from 6-1 to 13-2, so even if Murray does get better who’s to say it will have a big difference on their record, and last time I checked 5-10-1 doesn’t get you into the play-offs.
1st Season Starting
Murray – 16 games, 5-10-1 record, 64.4%, 20 TDs, 12 INTs, 232.6 YPG, 55.7 QBR, 48 Sacks, 544 rushing yards
Lamar – 7 games, 6-1 record, 58.2%, 6 TDS, 3 INTs, 75.1 YPG, 42.6 QBR, 16 Sacks, 695 rushing yards
Mahomes – 16 games, 12-4 record, 66.0%, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, 318.6 YPG, 80.3 QBR, 26 Sacks, Pro Bowl, First Team All-Pro, OPOY, MVP
2nd Season Starting
Lamar – 15 games, 13-2 record, 66.1%, 36 TDs, 6 INTs, 208.5 YPG, 81.8 QBR, Pro Bowl, MVP, 1206 rushing yards
Mahomes – 14 games, 11-3 record, 65.9%, 26 TDs, 5 INTs, 287.9 YPG, 76.3 QBR, 17 Sacks, Pro Bowl, Super Bowl Champion and MVP
2. The NFC West is the best division in football
The Cardinals reside in the best division in football, Seattle and San Francisco are legitimate Super Bowl contenders and the Rams are not to be slept on. If the Rams continue to regress which I believe is unlikely, there is a chance the Cardinals could finish 3rd, but there is simply no way they are finishing ahead of Seattle or the 49ers and to think else wise is absurd. Seattle has the better roster, a top 2 quarterback in NFL and a great coach and the 49ers have an elite offensive mind at head coach, an incredibly efficient offense and one of the best defenses in all of football, none of which the Cardinals can say they have.
Arizona has to play all the teams in their division twice a year, accounting for 6 games, if they can go 2-4, I think they should be happy. That would leave them with 10 games remaining, the threshold for the play-offs is usually 10-6 or 9-7 in a bad year. Meaning the Cardinals would have to go 8-2 in their 10 games outside of the division which is hard enough for the best teams in the NFL let alone the Cardinals.
San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams
3. Offseason Additions
Personally, I believe the DeAndre Hopkins trade has led to a lot of the Cardinals hype as without Hopkins they would have a pretty average arsenal of offensive weapons, Kirk, Fitzgerald, Isabella, Williams, Drake, they simply are not going to scare any opposing defenses, Hopkins however changes that. Over the last 5 seasons Hopkins ranks 2nd in receptions, 504, receiving yards, 6,590 and receiving touchdowns, 46, proving that he is elite and likely a future hall of famer. Undoubtedly Hopkins will change life for Arizona’s offense but he cannot solve their issues on offensive line or on defense, neither of which got drastically better in the offseason.
The Cardinals brought in:
- Jordan Phillips, DT
- De’Vondre Campbell, LB
- Devon Kennard, EDGE
- Isaiah Simmons, LB
- Josh Jones, OT
- Leki Fotu DT
- Rashard Lawrence DT
Phillips had a statistical breakout season with 9 sacks in 2019 but his overall play was the same as his 4 years prior, average.
Campbell is a durable starting linebacker who has totalled 234 solo tackles in his first 4 seasons but is average both against the run and in coverage.
Kennard is a nice addition with his 14 sacks and 18 tackles for loss over the last 2 seasons, but he isn’t going to change life on defense.
Isaiah Simmons is an elite prospect with incredible potential due to his game changing speed and athleticism as well as his swiss army knife skillset. Simmons can play linebacker, pass-rusher, safety or slot corner which made him a very desirable prospect in the draft, but some scouts have said by being a ‘jack of all trades’ it has meant he is not amazing at any one position. Hence, his impact in 2020 might not be as huge as Cardinals were hoping when he was drafted 8th overall.
Josh Jones was a nice pick up in the 3rd round but is quite a raw prospect in need of development. His long frame and athletic ability mean has the potential to be a good starting left tackle but not right out of the box.
Fotu and Lawrence were both drafted in the 4th round, Fotu has some impressive athletic ability but needs to develop as a true run stuffer as he’s an early down player due to his lack of rush ability. Lawrence has dog mentality and is a great leader and hard worker but is similar to Fotu in that he will likely be limited to an early down player, but he could become a rotational rusher as he develops.
Overall, none of the Cardinals additions on defense or the offensive line are going to change much in 2020 so to expect big changes in the quality of play from either unit is unwise.
4. Roster Holes
As I mentioned earlier Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes had elite rosters surrounding them and while the Chiefs had some holes on defense, and the Ravens lacked a great receiving corps the rest of the team made up for the very limited shortfalls. However, in the Cardinals case I don’t think that can be said, they have numerous holes in their roster and their great players don’t make up for it in my opinion…
Kenyan Drake had a great end of the season, in 8 games Drake totalled 643 yards which meant averaging 80.4 yards per game which would’ve ranked 8th and his 5.2 yards per carry which would have led the league. Drake doesn’t have jump off your screen explosiveness, but he does have breakaway speed as well as great vision and ball carrier moves. However, up to those 8 games Drake has had a relatively underwhelming career, so I’d like to see Drake perform again before proclaiming him a great running back
Maxx Williams is an elite blocking tight end but offers close to nothing in the passing game.
While Murray accounted for 23 of his 48 sacks, they still were not great. D.J. Humphries is the best player on the line after developing nicely in recent years. Humphries is a good pass blocking tackle and has shown flashes of great run blocking play. Justin Pugh is a nice pass blocking starter at guard but has been awful against the run. J.R. Sweezy has started 94 games in 8 years so has plenty of experience but he’s never performed at a high level. Mason Cole is a guard who will likely play center in 2020 and in my opinion is back-up level, if Josh Jones gets thrusted into the starting line-up Murray could be in trouble from the right hand side, Jones is raw and developmental with some great potential but teams will look take advantage of him in pass sets.
Interior Defensive Line
Jordan Phillips is a nice addition but won’t change much for the unit as a whole, Corey Peters is a good veteran run defender but has little effect on pass sets. Zach Allen simply had a bad rookie year so will need to develop before he is serviceable starter.
Patrick Peterson is a lockdown number one corner and Budda Baker is great starting safety but the rest of the secondary overall was poor in 2019, Jalen Thompson had some nice play in coverage as a rookie but wasn’t great against the run, Deionte Johnson struggled as a rookie and will likely back up Jalen Thompson in 2020. Byron Murphy Jr. had a bad rookie year and Dre Kirkpatrick is an aging average at best corner.
The Cardinals have a decent linebacker unit but it’s nothing special, Jordan Hicks is a good run defender but has only flashed good coverage skills. De’Vondre Campbell is an average linebacker and while Isaiah Simmons has elite potential, he won’t change life in 2020.
5. Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and Buddha Baker
Chandler Jones is the best pass rusher in the NFL, in his 4 years in Arizona he has totalled 60 sacks, 67 TFL, 98 QB hits, 17 FF, 2 Pro Bowls and 2 First team All-Pro. He also had 19 sacks and 8 forced fumbles in 2019. Patrick Peterson is a legitimate lockdown corner and Budda Baker is a great safety who just signed a 4-year $59 million deal making him the highest paid safety in NFL history, in 3 seasons he has made 2 Pro Bowls, 1 first team All-Pro and 240 tackles.
However, despite their greatest they were all in Arizona in 2019 and what difference did it make? The Cardinals still went 5-10-1.
6. Kliff Kingsbury
While some people like Kliff Kingsbury I’m not sold. His offensive system was not a failure in 2019 but it didn’t exactly pass with flying colours. Kingsbury is in my view not a proven NFL level head coach and didn’t deserve the Arizona job in the first place, I wish him no ill will but he was fired by Texas Tech after going 35-40 in his 6 years there and had 3 losing seasons in his last 3 years with Texas Tech, how is that NFL level head coaching.
Kingsbury may evolve into a great NFL offensive minded head coach and I wish him all the best but as of 2020 I can’t truthfully say I believe he is a good head coach yet.
Loss @ 49ers
Win Vs Washington
Win/Loss Vs Lions
Win @ Panthers
Win @ Jets
Loss @ Cowboys
Win/Loss Vs Seahawks
Win Vs Dolphins
Loss Vs Bills
Loss @ Seahawks
Win/Loss @ Patriots
Win/Loss Vs Rams
Win @ Giants
Loss Vs Eagles
Loss Vs 49ers
Loss Vs @ Rams
Worst Case Record: 5-11
Best Case Record: 9-7
My Expected Record: 7-9 / 8-8
Image by: Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid