Arizona Cardinals 2023 Season Preview & Win Total Prediction

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NFL Pick: 2023 Arizona Cardinals Under 4.5 Wins (-120) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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2023 Arizona Cardinals Under 4.5 Wins (-120)
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The Arizona Cardinals are no strangers to losing seasons, but the 2023 season is expected to be more challenging than usual. The Cardinals have lost some key veterans, they have a rookie head coach in Jonathan Gannon, and quarterback Kyler Murray is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season after tearing his ACL last December

But the top offshore sportsbooks are really souring on this team. The over/under for wins for Arizona is 4.5, which is a full 2 games below the number for any other team this season.  

You have to go back to 1995 when the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars were expansion teams to find a time when the bottom-ranked team was that far below the next-closest team in preseason win totals. The Panthers and Jaguars were at over/under 3.0 wins while the next worst teams were at 5.5 wins. Both teams finished over with the Panthers going 7-9 and the Jaguars going 4-12. 

But as the favorite to land the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Cardinals could be in store for a long season.  

The Changes That Matter 

The Cardinals have a new head coach, but was he the right hire? We also look at Murray’s potential return, the draft haul, and the losses in veteran leadership.  

Enter Jonathan Gannon 

The Cardinals are moving forward with 40-year-old coach Jonathan Gannon. He gets his first opportunity after serving as Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator since 2021, including last year’s Super Bowl defense that had 70 sacks in the regular season. 

Gannon has connections to Frank Reich from their Indianapolis days, and he was along for the ride with Nick Sirianni when he was hired to coach the Eagles in 2021. Gannon did a solid job with the Eagles, but his defenses had a tendency to get shredded by top quarterbacks. We are talking about a record number of games allowing 80% completions in one season in 2021.  

Not Quite There

The Eagles did not play many quality quarterbacks in 2022, but you saw Dak Prescott light them up for 40 points late in the year, Taylor Heinicke even led an upset win by converting 12-of-16 on 3rd down to start the night, and of course, Patrick Mahomes was Super Bowl MVP with the ball rarely touching the ground. 

Gannon is taking over an Arizona defense that allowed the 2nd-most points in the league last year, and they lost J.J. Watt to retirement. Gannon is going to find out quickly that things are much harder when you lack all the pass-rushing and secondary talent the Eagles had last year. 

Frankly, hiring Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen probably would have been the more exciting hire, but the Colts snatched him up instead. In the last decade, the most successful 1st-time NFL coaches who were defensive coaches are Mike Vrabel (Titans) and Sean McDermott (Bills). It is a tough way to find a coach now with how important offense is.  

When Will Kyler Murray Play?

Complicating the Arizona projection is the health of quarterback Kyler Murray. He was 3-8 as a starter last year, the only time he failed to get over 4.5 wins for the Cardinals. If he did not tear his ACL, it is possible he would have continued that streak last year.  

The typical recovery for an ACL is 9 months. For players injured in December or January, we have seen cases where they were ready in Week 1 (Carson Palmer in 2006) and cases where they needed a couple of weeks to return (Carson Wentz in 2018). 

Likely Scenario

So far, the most likely scenario for Murray is that he will miss Week 1 and possibly a few more games. That would mean the Cardinals open the season with veteran Colt McCoy, who is 0-22 as a starter when his team allows at least 20 points in a game.  

For Arizona’s sake, Murray better return as soon as he can. But they also cannot rush him back from such a serious injury. His mobility is also a huge part of his game, and that could be affected for all of 2023. It is not uncommon to see a player struggle the first year back from a torn ACL only to regain their previous form in 2024. 

But if things go sour for the Cardinals in 2023, Murray may not be in the plans for 2024. This could be USC quarterback Caleb Williams’ team by then, but a lot of games need to be played first before we talk about that.  

Losses and Gains 

The fear of an inexperienced coaching staff and less mobile quarterback is that Arizona’s roster looks worse than it did a year ago. DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt are gone, meaning two Hall of Fame-caliber starters are no longer there to help the team. 

Hopkins served a suspension last year, but he was a good fit for Murray. Marquise Brown will have to show more for the team after they traded for him with Baltimore. Rondale Moore also needs a 3rd-year breakout. 

Lack of Leadership

Watt had 12.5 sacks in his final season. The Arizona defense is not returning any player with more than 4.0 sacks from last year. Gannon could be relying heavily on 2nd-round rookie BJ Ojulari. The defensive end had 16.5 sacks in 3 years at LSU. 

Arizona’s 1st-round pick will at least make Murray happy, because he wanted the team to draft right tackle Paris Johnson Jr. from Ohio State. They did so after a trade down to the No. 6 pick. We will see how things play out but taking the tackle instead of a pass rusher like Will Anderson at No. 3 or choosing Jalen Carter at No. 6 could have been a good move for the defensive-minded coach to have a key piece to his new unit. 

2023 Schedule Analysis and Pick 

Paying attention to betting lines put out in May for every game in the upcoming NFL season is not exactly the smartest use of your time. Some teams are going to surprise, and some teams are going to disappoint. That happens every single year in this league. 

But it is alarming that the Cardinals are currently not favored in the NFL odds for any game this season. They are listed as the moneyline underdog in all 17 games. 

When you check the schedule, it is not as crazy as it sounds. You know Arizona is almost certainly going to be the underdog when the 6 games happen against the 49ers (twice), Cowboys (Week 3), Bengals (Week 5), Ravens (Week 8), and Eagles (Week 17).  

But many of the other 11 games, including some of the more winnable ones, present a challenge: 

  • Week 1 at Washington: Unlikely to have Kyler Murray, this will be a tough test against a talented defensive front on the road. 
  • Week 2 vs. Giants: Aggressive, blitz-happy defense and a team that can run with Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley 
  • Week 6 at Rams: Maybe Murray is back by then, but Sean McVay’s Rams usually always beat the Cardinals except for last year’s game when Matthew Stafford was out and Cooper Kupp suffered a season-ending injury. 
  • Week 9 at Browns: Cleveland has the better roster, and if Deshaun Watson is an improved player, the Browns will definitely be favored in this game when November comes. 
  • Week 13 at Steelers: Mike Tomlin has a history of losing to some lousy teams, but that is usually not the case at home, and T.J. Watt could be a nightmare for this line. 
  • Week 16 at Bears: Chicago was 3-14 last year and the only team to allow more points than Arizona, but putting the hot climate team in Chicago on Christmas Eve against a team that may be more successful passing this season sounds like another road underdog game. 

If the Cardinals are going to challenge this over 4.5 wins mark, they must deliver in the 3-game stretch against Atlanta (Week 10), Houston (Week 11), and the rematch with the Rams in Week 12. By that time, Gannon and Murray should be settling in together, and that is the easiest part of the schedule for this team. 

Over or Under?

But even if they managed a winning streak there and stole a game from the Seahawks, that is still only a 4-13 record again. After finishing 4-13 last year and getting arguably worse, I like the under for Arizona for your NFL picks

Bring on Caleb Williams. 

NFL Pick: 2023 Arizona Cardinals Under 4.5 Wins (-120) at BetOnline

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2023 Arizona Cardinals Under 4.5 Wins (-120)
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On the Last Season of “The Cardinals”: Kliff and Kyler Union Ends   

The 2022 season was the end of the road in Arizona for the pairing of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray. Outside of a 7-0 start in 2021, things never really clicked that well. Kingsbury was allowed to finish a 4-13 season, but after a 3-4 start, the team’s only win in the last 10 games was against a battered Rams team. 

Peak excitement during the season came early in Week 2 when Murray led a 16-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Raiders, including a dazzling display of scrambling on a 2-point conversion play. The Cardinals won in overtime after returning a fumble for a touchdown.  

Take Into Account

It should be pointed out that the Raiders were one of the worst teams in NFL history at holding big leads last year. Arizona was just 1-of-3 games where the Raiders blew a lead of at least 17 points last year. The Cardinals faltered in their other close games, losing to the Chargers on a 2-point conversion in the final seconds and inexplicably coughing up a lead to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers on Christmas.  

One other bright moment was when the Cardinals played the Eagles tougher than just about anyone during Philadelphia’s 8-0 start, but Arizona still lost that game 20-17 after an incredulous spike by Murray on a 3rd-and-1 led to a missed 43-yard field goal in the final seconds. Coaching errors like that are why Kingsbury is gone and why Murray is on the hot seat in Arizona. 

Murray Goes Down

In a Week 14 game on Monday night against New England, Murray tore his ACL in the first quarter, which ended his season. But at 4-8, the season was already lost by that point. The Cardinals just had to play out the stretch and see J.J. Watt retire on a high note. 

Now the team will move on with Gannon as head coach.