Through one week, the questions hovering over Kliff Kingsbury’s future in Arizona have been quickly answered. In what proved to be his most impressive win as head coach of the Cardinals—a 38-13 drubbing of the defending AFC South champion Tennessee Titans—it looks, for now, as if his Week 1 win could be the initial remedy Kingsbury desired to steer his gig back on track in the desert. For 60 minutes on Sunday, the Cardinals looked to be all the part of a major force to be reckoned with in an undefeated NFC West as we steamroll into Week 2.
Entering year three, Cardinals electric signal-caller Kyler Murray toyed with Titans defenders from the opening whistle. His innate ability to embarrass defenders in the open field was put on full display, amassing 289 yards and four touchdowns, with two apiece to DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk.
It’s the best way to describe the style of play Murray provides to the NFL game. He’s not your typical 6-foot-5 gun-slinger, rather, he’s a sub-six-foot combination of elite quickness and arm arrogance who will light up a defense at the blink of an eye. He provides a dynamic to the NFL landscape unmatched by any in football—and if he’s able to keep up his play, an MVP award could soon find its way into Murray’s packed vitrine.
As much of a story as the Cardinals were on Sunday, no one expected the Titans to look this bad. Whether credit should be attributed to the game plan of Kingsbury or the lack of such to Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel, Derrick Henry was irrelevant, Julio Jones and A.J. Brown were relatively quiet, and Taylor Lewan was bullied for his lunch money by Chandler Jones. Currently eyeing a massive payday, Jones proved he deserves his bag, and much more, totaling a ridiculous five sacks in just three quarters of play. One of the league's most underrated edge rushers despite two All-Pro selections, Jones is in the final season of his five-year, $82.5M contract, and if Sunday was a sign to general manager Steve Keim, pay the man.
The successes stemmed outward from the standout play of Murray and Jones. Quality performances from Isaiah Simmons, Budda Baker, and first-year talents Marco Wilson and Rondale Moore have required us to turn our attention to Arizona, and rightly so. A projection muddied entering the third year of the Kingsbury-Murray experiment, a hot start to the tune of a 25-point blowout on the road was ideal considering the victories of each of their inter-division foes.
An NFC West expected by the masses to progress into the most competitive in all of football, it’s early, but it’s time to look internally and ask the question is Arizona “for real” or is this just a flash in the pan of the highs and lows we’ve seen before from Kingsbury’s group? While the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle Seahawks tend to dominate divisional headlines, the Cardinals look every bit of a unit primed to compete for its debut playoff appearance under the oft-criticized Kingsbury.
Littered with an enticing combo of veterans and first-year pop, it’s time we bring Arizona out from under the rug when scoping late-winter playoff brackets. A current schedule path set to where a 3-0 start looks to be in the cards prior to their Week 4 matchup against the Rams, Arizona could quickly find themselves in the driver's seat of the division before Halloween.
While their arrival can be considered long overdue, it’s time the Cardinals earn a tick of respect. A franchise on the heels of another potential rebuild if Kingsbury isn’t able to put fantasy to the football field, Arizona looks to fit the mold of a group destined to shock this fall.