After rattling off seven straight victories to open the 2021 campaign, the Arizona Cardinals fell to the Packers on Thursday Night Football in Week 8. However, that wasn’t the only loss the Cardinals endured that night. On the game’s final drive, quarterback Kyler Murray suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of Arizona’s next three contests. Fresh off a Week 12 bye, what is the latest on Murray’s injury, and will he play this week against the Bears?
Update 12/3/21: Adam Schefter reported Friday that QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins will be gameday decisions Sunday against Chicago, per Kliff Kingsbury.
Kyler Murray injury update
In Week 8, the Cardinals trailed the Packers by 3 points late in the fourth quarter. Murray and Co. had possession and methodically drove into the red zone. He scrambled out of the pocket and quickly had a defender breathing down his neck. As the defender dove for a tackle, Murray’s left ankle rolled under him, stealing the breaths of NFL fans and fantasy managers across the country.
The Cardinals’ star QB brushed it off for what would be the final play of the game. Murray threw an end-zone fade to A.J. Green, who infamously seemed to stop on the route, allowing Green Bay CB Rasul Douglas to come up with the game-sealing interception.
Murray didn’t participate in practice leading up to Week 9, thrusting journeyman Colt McCoy into the starting lineup. McCoy led the Cardinals to a 2-1 record before the bye week, providing serviceable play under center.
Murray recorded limited sessions in Week 11, signaling that he may play that week. Yet, Arizona chose to play it safe with their franchise QB. They sat him one more game, knowing the bye week was to follow.
Will Murray play in Week 13?
Those limited practices, followed by an entire week off, lead me to believe Murray will start against the Bears in Week 13. Arizona is 9-2 and first in the NFC. The rest of their schedule does not appear too challenging, with bouts against the Bears, Rams, Lions, Colts, Cowboys, and Seahawks on tap.
Realistically, only the Rams (if they can return to their early-season state), Colts, and Cowboys should give the Cardinals a run for their money. Nevertheless, 2021 has been anything but realistic. So, it is important that Arizona keeps their heads down and take care of business.
Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ site quoted Kliff Kingsbury as saying, “I am hopeful. I will leave it at that at this point because I want to see them [Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins] move around, practice full speed, and see where they are at, and where their comfort level and their confidence is.”
Through the first two days of practice in Week 13, Murray has been limited in practice. This is similar to what we saw in Week 11, but two weeks later, the expectation is that he will be on the field come Sunday.
What to expect from the Cardinals’ offense this week
With Arizona hitting the practice field on Wednesday, we will have a clearer indication of Murray’s status soon. I’m more worried about Hopkins, who has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. If he cannot record a string of at least limited sessions, I don’t anticipate him suiting up against the Bears.
While I believe Murray will play, we need to temper expectations. You don’t just miss four weeks of football and return to MVP-level form. Murray is an elite dual-threat QB who utilizes his athleticism on nearly every down. He may be timid with his ankle for a bit, limiting his impact as a runner and outside the pocket.
We already witnessed a similar situation in 2020. Murray injured his shoulder and returned to a much more subdued playstyle.
Additionally, Chicago is one of the better pass defenses in the NFL (215.8 pass yards allowed per game – eighth) with a league-leading sack percentage (8.58%). It could quickly become a difficult first day back at the office for Murray.