The Arizona Cardinals have gotten off to a blazing start to the current NFL season, signaling their intent with a win over the Tennessee Titans in Week One. The victory has prompted various publications to move them up in their power rankings – the Cardinals have seen rankings improved by at least four spots at four top websites.
Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab has the Cardinals at No.6, a huge jump from where they started at No. 13. Schwab praised outside linebacker Chandler Jones on the back of his five sacks, also sending praise management’s way for not trading the player.
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco moved the team four sports in his rankings, citing the defense but reserving the plaudits for Kyler Murray. The quarterback threw for 289 yards and had a career-high four touchdowns in the contest, also running for one of his own.
“If Kyler Murray plays like he did against the Titans this season, the Cardinals will be a Super Bowl contender,” Prisco declared.
Bleacher Report moved Arizona six slots up to seventh in its rankings with claims that their win was the most impressive in Week One, but there are other sites that seem hesitant. NFL’s Dan Hanzus refrained from moving the Cardinals into his top 10, placing them at 14th up from 18th.
“Maybe the Cardinals heard all the talk this summer about how they were the only NFC West team we shouldn’t expect to make a deep playoff run,” he wrote. “Arizona came out on Sunday and played like one of the best teams in football, embarrassing the Titans in a 38-13 road victory that recalibrates expectations of what this team can be. Kyler Murray (five total TDs) looked like a QB ready for a run at MVP, while Chandler Jones delivered one of the best defensive performances in franchise history: five sacks and two forced fumbles, both of which led to Arizona touchdowns.”
It appears some columnists still need convincing but another win against the Minnesota Vikings in Week Two will see to further improvement. The Cardinals are favored to beat Minnesota and they’re currently 10/21 for Sunday’s contest according to betarizona.com.
Odds have shortened slightly on the Cardinals’ chances of winning the NFC West. The division is pretty loaded, with the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams the obvious favorites. While Arizona is 14/1 to win the conference, they’re only 11/2 to win the division, which is pretty good value.
Meanwhile, Cardinals nose tackle Corey Peters is ecstatic to have gotten back on the field after what was a difficult offseason. Peters’ season came to a premature end in 2020 after he tore a patellar tendon against the Buffalo Bills in Week 10.
It was quite an ordeal as he had to go into free agency as a 33-year-old hobbled lineman.
“It was incredibly difficult,” the player admitted during a press conference this week. “Obviously, when you have a major injury, a lot of the process is take a step forward and take two steps backwards. So, it can be very frustrating. Very much so a roller coaster of emotions.”
Fortunately for Peters, the Cardinals did not leave him hanging and he would re-sign with the team during training camp last month.
“When I had surgery, what we talked about was potentially being ready for Week One,” he explained. “We weren’t exactly sure if that means ‘Yeah, you’re cleared to play but you haven’t been able to prepare.’ But I’ve been very pleased with the process. I feel like I had time to condition and then work my way back into things.”
Peters took to the field for the opener against the Titans on Sunday and, while he only played 15 snaps, they were pretty meaningful as he disrupted play, made two tackles for loss, and nearly got a touchdown return after Jones knocked the ball away from Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill as he rolled out.
Peters picked the ball up, sped towards the end zone, and made a dive at the goal line. He was awarded the TD but the officials determined he stopped just short upon review.
The player noted that simply being back out there was great enough and he felt less bad about the near-miss after seeing the offense convert.
“I thought he had some real impactful plays,” Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury said on Monday. “He’s such a great presence in that room.”
Second-year man Rashard Lawrence is now Arizona’s starting nose tackle and has claimed to have learned a lot about the position from Peters.
“He’s taught me so much about the nose tackle position,” he said before the start of the season. “He’s still got a lot left in the tank and he’s a hell of a player.”
Fast Forward to Week 2
The Cardinals are continuing their upward trend following a 34-33 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and as much is being reflected in the power rankings provided by the top sports sites around the internet.
Sporting News has them in the top five now, with Vinnie Iyer bumping them up from No.6 to No.3.
“The Cardinals escaped the Vikings and got away with a sloppy yet still spectacular performance from Kyler Murray,” he wrote. “They have to clean up some physical and mental mistakes that tend to pop up, making them an inconsistent team overall. But they’ve taken care of the bottom line and will continue to grow as young contenders.”
Josh Schrock of NBC Sports reckons Murray’s 400 passing yards and four touchdowns has him firmly in the early-season race for MVP but isn’t sure the quarterback should be taken seriously after he admitted he’s never seen Star Wars.
Justin Legler of Yahoo Sports also praised Murray but stated the obvious as well in pointing out that the Cardinals’ defense wasn’t all that.
“Kyler Murray was phenomenal once again, completing 29 of 36 pass attempts for 400 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 31 yards and a TD in the win,” he wrote.
The Cards are the favorites for their upcoming clash against the Jacksonville Jaguars and would likely command the most attention in the league should they post a 3-0 record after this one is done.