NFL Pick: 2023 Arizona Cardinals Under 4.5 Wins (-120) at BetRivers
The Arizona Cardinals enter a new era of football with a new head coach in Jonathan Gannon, but this may only be the prelude to the real next era in 2024. The top online sportsbooks are only placing Arizona’s over/under for total wins at 4.5, a full 2 wins below every other team in the NFL this year, giving Arizona solid odds to land the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft.
Could the Kyler Murray era soon become the Caleb Williams era if the Cardinals do indeed end up with the top pick to select the USC quarterback next year? A long way to go before we get to that point, but the situation is bleak for this team in 2023.
We look at the other changes and if there is any reason to think this roster can exceed 4.5 wins.
There will be a lot of changes in Arizona this year, but the phrase “it’s going to get worse before it gets better” could be at play when you consider the health at quarterback and the loss of veteran talent.
The Quarterback Dilemma
For the first time since 2018, it is possible the Cardinals start a season without Kyler Murray at quarterback. His ACL injury happened in December, and the usual diagnosis is a 9-month recovery, but we have seen players return a little sooner or take longer than that before.
For example, Carson Wentz tore his ACL on December 10, 2017, and he played his next game on September 23, 2018, as the Eagles held him out for 2 games. But years ago, Carson Palmer tore his ACL in a January playoff game and was ready for Week 1 of the 2006 season for Cincinnati. Every player is different, and Murray is certainly someone who uses his legs and mobility more than an average quarterback.
Some reports have even mentioned a midseason return for Murray, so we cannot rule anything out at this point. It could very well be veteran Colt McCoy at quarterback for the early portion of the season. He is 11-25 as a starter in his career, but most notably he is 0-22 as a starter when his team allows at least 20 points. He needs the defense to be great to win, and after the Cardinals ranked so poorly on defense last year, it does not look promising there.
Uninspiring Coaching Hire and Loss of Veterans
But the Cardinals have hired a defensive-minded coach in Jonathan Gannon, who was the defensive coordinator of the Eagles since 2021. This is not a very inspiring hire as Gannon was the scapegoat for the team’s Super Bowl loss in which they blew several coverages in the fourth quarter and allowed 38 points. Despite getting 70 sacks from his pass rush, Gannon’s defense did not have elite rankings in points allowed, and his defense was routinely picked apart by the top quarterbacks in the league. The 2021 Eagles set a record for allowing 5 quarterbacks to complete 80% of their passes in a game.
With a hole at quarterback, Gannon also takes over a team that has lost veteran leadership as wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (Titans) and J.J. Watt (retired) are gone. That’s only your leading receiver and top pass rusher. The Cardinals did not return any player who had more than 4 sacks in 2022.
Another Hollywood Story?
Marquise Brown can step up into the No. 1 role after the team traded for him a year ago, and he started off well before his injury slowed his production the rest of the way. But McCoy or a less effective Murray throwing to Brown, Rondale Moore, and tight end Zach Ertz is not the most encouraging offense to win shootouts.
The Cardinals also spent their top draft pick on right tackle Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State), who Murray wanted the team to pick. He should improve that position for the team, but he is not going to move the needle much for wins in 2023.
The positive is the Cardinals got a great return in draft capital with a trade with Houston, which moved up to the No. 3 pick to take Will Anderson. Should the Cardinals have stay put and drafted who many analysts believed was the best pass rusher in this draft? Time will tell, but the Cardinals should have a lot of draft power going forward.
It just does not look good for winning games in the short term.
2023 Schedule Analysis
Bad teams can luck into winning 5 games in the NFL any year. Even the 2022 Cardinals just needed to stop a 2-point conversion by the Chargers with 15 seconds left (Week 12) to finish 5-12, or to not choke so hard on Christmas against Tampa Bay.
But Arizona has a difficult task ahead with a quarterback coming off a torn ACL, and a head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator who have never held these jobs before in the NFL.
The Cardinals are certainly the worst team in the NFC West division and maybe the whole NFL, but as always, let’s check out the schedule to see how many wins we can find.
Here are some notable Arizona schedule facts to consider:
- Arizona will face the NFC East, which had 3 playoff teams last year, and the only one that missed (Washington) will be at home in Week 1 in the game the Cardinals are most likely to not have Murray ready for. Arizona is a six-point underdog according to the latest NFL odds.
- Arizona will face the AFC North, which could be one of the best divisions in the league with 3 winning teams last year, and Arizona will be on the road in the two “easier” games against the Browns (Week 9) and the Steelers (Week 13).
- While the Cardinals are the best defense in the league against Cooper Kupp the last few years, the fact is Sean McVay is 11-2 against Arizona since he joined the Rams in 2017.
- Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers are 5-3 against the Cardinals since 2019, and they scored 38 points and won by 25-plus points in both matchups last year.
- The two most winnable games on Arizona’s schedule are still both on the road in Houston (Week 11) and Chicago (Week 16).
Even if Murray returns for the second half and the team beats the Falcons (Week 10), Bears (Week 16), and Texans (Week 11), they will likely need a couple of division wins to get over 4.5 wins. A win over the Rams or Seahawks is possible, but sweeping one or beating both is pushing it.
As a non-believer in Gannon as a head coach, I would take the under 4.5 wins for your NFL ATS bets. The Cardinals can look to 2024 as the real relaunch point.
NFL Pick: 2023 Arizona Cardinals Under 4.5 Wins (-120) at BetRivers
2022 Season Synopsis: The End of Kliff Kingsbury
You would have to go back to 1991-92 when the team was still in Phoenix to find the last time the Cardinals stacked 4-win seasons. But that is on the table here as the Cardinals are coming off a 4-13 season that saw head coach Kliff Kingsbury get fired after 4 seasons, and quarterback Kyler Murray tear his ACL in December.
Even when Murray played, the Cardinals were not good, going 3-8 in his starts. The best it got for Murray all season was a wild 16-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Raiders in Week 2, a game Arizona won in overtime after the Raiders fumbled for a touchdown.
The only other wins of the season for Arizona came against the Rams, Panthers, and Saints – three of the NFC’s most disappointing teams last year.
The defense finished 31st in points allowed as J.J. Watt finishing his Hall of Fame career in style with 12.5 sacks was a rare highlight for the team.
After starting 7-0 in the 2021 season, the Cardinals are 8-20 since. That 7-0 run, which looks like an aberration now, was really the only highlight of the Kingsbury era. Unsurprisingly, the team parted ways after the season.