Where there are teams that will take a step forward in 2022, there must also be teams that take one backward. One of the teams most poised to disappoint after last year’s result is the Arizona Cardinals, who could go from a playoff team in 2021 to picking in the top 10 of next year’s draft.
That’s not as hot a take as it may seem. The threshold for picking in the top 10 in this year’s draft was a 7-10 record. If Arizona had lost the three one-score games they won last season, they’d have already been knocking on the door of the top 10. Given the Cardinals’ offseason activity, there could easily be four more losses with this team than last year’s iteration.
For one thing, their roster looks weaker than it did last year, with receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension not adding any help, and their difficult schedule makes them look even more vulnerable. Arizona lost some key contributors on both sides of the ball.
On offense, receiver Christian Kirk and running back Chase Edmonds departed in free agency. Defensively, the Cardinals lost four-time Pro Bowl and two-time first-team All-Pro edge rusher Chandler Jones as well as linebacker Jordan Hicks.
Meanwhile, the players the team brought in during free agency and the draft don’t all feel like significant upgrades.
To replace Jones are two rookies—Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders—that will really have to prove themselves worthy NFL-level replacements, especially if J.J. Watt’s injury bug rears its ugly head once again in 2022.
In place of Kirk, the Cardinals traded their first-round pick to the Ravens for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Murray’s former college receiver. While Brown is more than a worthy replacement, the cost for Arizona makes the acquisition more questionable. It doesn’t look any better when considering A.J. Brown was available for a similar price and that Hollywood will have to be the Cardinals’ No. 1 receiver for six weeks with Hopkins’ suspension.
That suspension, by the way, could be a huge thorn in Arizona’s side with how difficult their schedule is to open the season.
The Cardinals play the incredibly talented AFC West this season, and their first two games of the year are matchups with AFC West opponents. Considering the defensive secondary is still a relatively weak spot for Arizona, games against the Chiefs and Raiders to open the season might get ugly. That might especially be the case as the Cardinals will be left without their best offensive weapon.
After that, they still have to play the Rams and Eagles as well as a couple of weaker teams, namely the Panthers and Seahawks.
Of course, the season is much longer than six weeks, but the going doesn’t get any easier for the Cardinals. They still will have to play the remaining two teams in the AFC West as well as the Buccaneers, Saints, Vikings and Patriots.
That’s all without mentioning the five divisional matchups that remain after Week 6. The Seahawks may be struggling, but the Rams and 49ers both look poised for another year in playoff contention. Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s poor track record in the back half of the season doesn’t lend any more hope to the possibility of a strong push to the finish.
As it stands, the Cardinals have the second-hardest schedule in the NFL in 2022—behind only the Rams—based on last year’s final records and standings.
Filling out my own schedule predictor for the Cardinals, I had Arizona going 8-9. They’re not a bad team, they’re just in a rough spot. And while that would be a disappointing season, it still predictively leaves them out of the top 10 in the 2023 NFL Draft. At the same time though, one or two of those wins could go the other way, which would leave Arizona as a bottom 10 team in the NFL in 2022.
Regardless of whether the Cardinals end up with a premium draft pick, the 2022 season will likely be a rough one for Arizona.
- Jun 24, 2022
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