Kliff Kingsbury’s group has its eyes set on a Super Bowl trip to Los Angeles in February and is at the top of the NFC — and the NFL — as the halfway mark approaches. But its chances might have taken a massive hit with another brutal injury to a key veteran.
When things start to go well, other things slide in and slam the door in their face, and that is precisely what is happening with the Cardinals after J.J. Watt is more than likely set to miss the remainder of the season in a shocking development.
The Cardinals’ hot start just got cooled down in a shocking turn of events
This news is shocking on every level. Watt requested a release from the Houston Texans and subsequently signed with the Cardinals in the offseason, and the defense received a massive boost with him coming on board.
Through seven games, Watt compiled just 10 tackles and one sack. But that doesn’t matter. His presence on the defensive line — and the team, for that matter — is a major reason why this group has yet to lose a game. He still draws a ton of attention (just ask Chandler Jones, who had five sacks on opening day), and his veteran presence in the locker room is something this group loves.
The Cardinals defense is seventh in sacks, 10th in interceptions, and third in points against. We haven’t even discussed the high-octane offense led by the perennial MVP candidate from the University of Oklahoma.
Still, the loss of Watt will leave a significant hole to fill, and perhaps they go to the trade market to try to fill his void as best they can.
J.J. Watt’s brutal injury history adds another page
When healthy, Watt is arguably the most dynamic player in the NFL. The problem is, he has not been able to stay healthy throughout his career.
At the start of his career, he was a warrior. Through the first five seasons, Watt played every single game for the Texans. Since then, he has suited up for an entire season only twice. Moreover, he has played in fewer than 10 games in the other four seasons.
The injury bug has bitten Watt at a ridiculous level, robbing the NFL of one of the best defensive players of all time. This latest one is just another chapter, and the latest reports indicate that Watt will likely miss the remainder of the season.
Even more absurd is the fact that Watt finished the game against the Texans on Sunday despite sustaining the injury during the contest.
However, let’s not rule out Watt just yet. He is a warrior, a grinder, and a trooper, and he has made unreal recoveries before — with the latest one coming in 2019.
If anybody can return quicker than expected, it’s Watt.
For what it’s worth, three months would be at the end of January, right before the Super Bowl is played in LA — just saying.
The pressure is on Kyler Murray to continue to perform at an MVP level
As talented as Watt is, the team lives and breathes through the arm of Murray. The former MLB draft pick turned Heisman Trophy winner is on a tear to start the season. Through the first seven games, he’s thrown for 2,002 yards with 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions while adding three rushing scores.
It’s undoubtedly not coincidental that Murray’s performance has come for an undefeated Cardinals team. Given the loss of Watt, though, the defense might take a step back, which means even more pressure on the shoulders of the 5-foot-10, 207-pound quarterback.
However, the first test without Watt won’t be easy. Arizona faces Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in a massive Thursday Night Football showdown. On the other hand, Rodgers won’t have Davante Adams or Allen Lazard for this contest, which should help the Arizona defense a bit.
Either way, there is no denying how important Watt is to this football team, and the Cardinals’ Super Bowl hopes just took a massive blow on a Wednesday evening in October.
Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference