Are the 2020 Arizona Cardinals this year’s version of the 2019 Cleveland Browns? Offseason darlings heading into the 2019 season, the Browns fell flat on their faces right out the gate, seeing their prized young quarterback regress severely during a sophomore slump campaign. Kyer Murray and Kliff Kingsbury will look to avoid that same fate in the 2020 NFL season. The Cardinals 2020 betting odds include a projected win total of 7 games and +900 longshot odds to win the NFC West crown this year. Have the Cardinals made enough moves to capture a playoff spot at +240 betting odds, or are they destined to suffer the same fate as last year’s Cleveland team?
Year one under Kliff Kingsbury
The 2019 NFL season was a year of firsts for both the aforementioned Murray and Kingsbury as quarterback and head coach for Arizona. The learning process began early on, as Kingsbury famously decided against practicing any of his K-Raid offense in the preseason in order to draw a veil of secrecy. This decision backfired when the offense failed to produce anything more than two field goals through three quarters in an eventual tie against the Detroit Lions in Week one.
The offense did have it’s moments, particularly during a three-game winning streak in October, and Murray had a promising season, taking home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. This young quarterback-head coach duo will need to continue to make strides in year two because a middle of the road offense (ranked 16th in points scored and 21st in yardage in 2019) will not be enough to overcome one of the lousiest defensive units in the NFL last season.
Make no mistake about it, this Cardinals defense last season was pitiful. They were terrible against the run and putrid defending the pass. Arizona ranked 28th in points against, allowing opposing offenses to score 30 or more points on seven occasions. The Cardinals ranked dead last in yards allowed as opponents averaged a staggering six yards per play against Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph’s unit.
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Arizona Cardinals offseason breakdown
Any discussion of the Arizona Cardinals offseason has to start with Steve Keim’s robbery of the Houston Texans in March. Keim somehow convinced Bill O’Brien and the Texans to hand over one of the top three wide receivers in the NFL in DeAndre Hopkins while also taking on the exorbitant contract of David Johnson.
The Cardinals also parted ways with a second-round pick in the deal but are universally recognized as getting the better of that deal. Johnson, while a tremendous player for a short amount of time in Arizona, had clearly lost his job to Kenyan Drake when he arrived from Miami midseason.
Related: The top 25 receivers in the NFL
The trade immediately catapults this Arizona offense into what should become a top ten unit this season. Hopkins has produced 1,000 yard receiving seasons in five of the last six years and averaged almost 9 touchdowns during that time.
Currently, FanDuel Sportsbook has betting odds projections for Hopkins of 1124.5 yards and 8.5 touchdowns for the 2020 NFL season. The addition of Hopkins should open things up for the emerging Christian Kirk and ageless Larry Fitzgerald.
While the Hopkins move was a no brainer for the Arizona offense, it was also a move of luxury. The other significant addition for the Cardinals this offseason came on the defensive side of the football via the NFL Draft in April. This selection was made more out of necessity, although Arizona may have had the perfect player fall into their laps with the 8th overall pick in round one.
One of the biggest issues the Cardinals defense had last season was defending the pass in the middle of the field, particularly against opposing tight ends. T.J. Hockenson did a ton of damage against the Birds in Week one, and Tyler Higbee made mincemeat of the Cardinals secondary in Week 17.
Plenty of other tight ends had big days against Arizona along the way, as well. When you have to defend George Kittle twice a year within your division, it becomes apparent just how pressing a need this was.
Enter Clemson hybrid linebacker Isaiah Simmons. Simmons had the top-rated Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of the linebacker class at 9.97, including marks of “elite” in both explosion and speed. His athletic rating was actually second in the entire 2020 draft class, trailing only free safety Jeremy Chinn.
Simmons projects to walk into the Arizona locker room as a starter and defensive leader from day one. With Chandler Jones dominating up front and Patrick Peterson hopefully playing a full season after a lengthy suspension in 2019, the Cardinals should experience positive regression this year on defense.
Arizona’s defensive depth
The Cardinals also brought in a few less splashy names via free agency to improve the overall depth of the defense. Interior lineman Jordan Phillips arrives via Buffalo, where he had a career year following three seasons of relative obscurity in Miami. Phillips had 9.5 sacks last season to go with an impressive 12 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits.
The Arizona linebacking core will feature a few new faces as well with Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell signing as free agents. Both guys have been unheralded starters for fringe NFL defenses in Detroit and Atlanta the past few years. The Cardinals added defensive line depth in the 4th round of the draft, grabbing Leki Fotu of Utah and Rashard Lawrence of LSU with consecutive picks.
Perhaps the most intriguing selection of the Cardinals 2020 NFL draft came in round three when they picked Josh Jones out of Houston.
Jones played left tackle at the University of Houston and is considered a bit of a raw project, thus explaining his drop after initial projections had him pegged as a potential round one selection. Kingsbury and company will hope Jones can develop quickly enough to help keep Kyler Murray from having to run for his life in the Arizona backfield this season.
The Cardinals had very few high profile players leave the organization this offseason, and perhaps more accurately, they’ve lost no players that will have any discernable impact on the Arizona betting odds in 2020. The trade of one-time stud running back David Johnson is the biggest name to leave on the surface. However, his departure has no impact on this team moving forward other than to ensure Kenyan Drake sees the majority of touches from the position this year.
Drake has several available individual player props on DraftKings, including 975.5 rushing yards. He also has a combined rushing and receiving yardage projection of 1375.5 yards and is a (+2000) longshot to lead the league in rushing for the 2020 NFL season. Johnson actually has similar (+2500) odds to lead the league in Houston this year.
Cardinals Strength of Schedule Breakdown
According to the Warren Sharp Strength of Schedule metrics, which favor Las Vegas win totals over last season’s final standings, the Cardinals have the 14th toughest schedule in the league. Arizona has the disadvantage of being in a stout NFC West, although they do benefit from drawing opponents from two of the weaker divisions in the NFL in the AFC and NFC East.
The Cardinals open the season as 7.5 point underdogs on the road against the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers before hosting the Washington Football Club in week two as 6.5 point favorites.
Arizona has several potentially winnable games early despite a three-game road trip in October. If the Cardinals can arrive in Dallas for a Monday Night showdown in Week six at 3-2 or better, than the projected win total of 7 suddenly looks within reasonable striking distance.
The Cardinals will spend four straight weeks in Arizona following that Cowboys game with home games against Miami and Buffalo following their week eight bye. While Arizona has never had a historically strong home-field advantage, a month-long stretch with no travel during this altered season might very well allow the Cardinals to recharge before the NFC West stretch run.
The final seven weeks of the regular season include four divisional games for the Cardinals, including two against the Los Angeles Rams. With San Francisco and Seattle expected to battle it out for the division title again in 2020, one would figure the Rams and Cardinals are vying for third place and a potential Wild Card spot.
According to DraftKings, the Rams are favored slightly ahead of Arizona for third place in the division at +170 odds while the Cardinals currently sit at +190.
Cardinals season-long/win total bets
The Arizona Cardinals 2020 betting odds feature several options if you are interested in the Birds as an up and coming franchise this season. While I fully expect the Cardinals to show improvement in year two under Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, the competitiveness of the NFC West gives me pause in regards to taking the over on the projected win total of 7 games.
If anything, I would lean towards grabbing Arizona to qualify for the postseason at +240 odds as I feel that the market hasn’t fully accounted for the extra playoff team this year up until this point.
I do, however, have a few individual player props, which I think provide value for a team that has potential for several explosive offensive performances this season. I mentioned in an earlier article this offseason that I love Kenyan Drake to rush for over 1,000 yards this season, and you can grab his rushing prop right now at 975.5 yards. Perhaps my favorite play involving an Arizona Cardinals player involves their dual-threat quarterback.
Murray will be a fantasy darling this season, escaping from pressure to make acrobatic plays on a weekly basis. He is currently +2000 to be league MVP, although I don’t think that’s nearly enough value for a guy who might put up big statistical games on a losing team.
That said, Murray’s current Offensive Player of the Year odds are currently at a much more desirable +4000 on DraftKings. I’m throwing down some couch change on that lottery ticket for a guy I expect to finish as a top-three fantasy quarterback and ascending superstar.
Official Play: Kyler Murray – Off. Player of the Year (+4000) 0.25 Units
Official Play: Kenyan Drake – Over 975.5 Yards Rushing (-110) 1 Unit
Lean: Arizona Cardinals – Make Playoffs (YES) +240
Christopher Smith is the Senior Betting Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSmithPFN for upcoming analysis. Also, make sure to follow the betting group @PFNBets for analysis from all of our writers heading into the 2020 season.