Can the Arizona Cardinals beat one of the most pessimistic odds in recent NFL history?

The Arizona Cardinals have been a case study on how aggressive team-building strategy can blow up in a franchise’s face and leave them directionless if things go sour. Following the Sam Bradford and Bruce Arians era in Arizona, the Cardinals went through a quick rebuild before they stumbled upon a new franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray. Murray quickly exceeded expectations as a gunslinger, leading the Cardinals to unexpected success under center.

The previous era of the Arizona Cardinals went out quietly

With talented skill position players already in place like Larry Fitzgerald at wideout and David Johnson at halfback, Arizona seemingly had a foundation in place for a deadly offense, and, as a result, a dangerous team that could present itself as a dark-horse title contender. This was reflected by the odds, with various Arizona sports betting apps pegging their odds to win their division as a clear favorite. 

The Cardinals and their decision-makers were so confident in this new direction behind Murray that they made win-now moves while the young QB was still playing on his rookie contract, including trading for All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Unfortunately, Arizona’s brash moves didn’t pan out the way they hoped. 

Fitzgerald declined gracefully but eventually grew too weary to remain an elite target for the Cards. David Johnson battled various injuries until he eventually found himself out of the league entirely. Hopkins failed to replicate his production with the Houston Texans with Arizona and was allowed to walk away in free agency, signing a new deal with the Tennessee Titans this past offseason. 

The Arizona Cardinals have little incentive to win

Hopkins’s departure was likely a result of Kyler Murray’s knee injury that he suffered last season when he tore his ACL in Week 14. With Murray out for the foreseeable future, possibly unavailable for the entirety of the 2023 campaign, it made little sense to re-sign an aging Hopkins only for him to waste a year of his remaining prime with their franchise quarterback sidelined. 

Hopkins’s exit and Murray’s injury reprieve were only the nails in the coffin for the Cardinals, as their hastily constructed roster already had plenty of problems that wouldn’t have been solved by their presence. With Hopkins gone and Murray likely out for the year, it made perfect sense for Arizona to take a step back this season and try to capitalize on a losing season to ensure that they get the best draft position possible.

With little incentive to win, or at least try to fight for victories, the Cardinals were clearly in a place where they could restructure their efforts on evaluating their young talent and rebuilding their core from the ground up; using this season as a bridge year to the next era of the franchise. 

It became obvious to fans, analysts, and oddsmakers that the Cardinals had little chance to win many games this season, nor did they have the motivation to put themselves in a position to do so, as that would mean potentially sacrificing their chances to acquire talents in the draft that could significantly improve the outlook of their short-term future. 

Arizona Cardinals over/under win total set at 4.5 games

As such, nobody expected the Cardinals to win many games this season, as they were tagged with the lowest over/under win total for the year at 4.5. That number put them at a full two wins under the other bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the league. While that’s one of the lowest predictions in modern NFL history, it’s not exactly unrealistic when factoring in the void of talent on Arizona’s roster. 

They’re already well on their way to hitting that mark, having started off the season 0-1 after a surprisingly close loss to the Washington Commanders. While history is technically on their side, it’s extremely difficult to picture an offense led by Joshua Dobbs and James Conner surpassing five wins on a season in the modern NFL.

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