The Arizona Cardinals coming into Week 3 with a 2-0 record. They are one of the surprise stories of the 2021 NFL season. In the loaded NFC West, the team currently shares first place and is looking at the easiest matchup of any division foe next on the schedule this week. Despite the good vibes in the desert, quarterback Kyler Murray is frustrated. In his opinion, the offense is still not firing on all cylinders. If that’s true, it’s a scary thought for the rest of the league.
The Arizona Cardinals are 2-0 in 2021
The Arizona Cardinals are in one of, if not the toughest division in all of pro football. The NFC West is absolutely loaded this year. Because the Cardinals, Murray, or coach Kliff Kingsbury don’t have the track record of success found in Seattle, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, though, most pundits picked Arizona to finish last in the division in 2021.
Heading into Week 3, the Cardinals are tied atop the division. They are right there with the Rams and 49ers and are a game ahead of the Seahawks. After two weeks, the team is second in the NFL in offensive yards (890) and points per game (36.0).
In Week 1, Murray and the Cards dismantled the Tennessee Titans 38-13. The team clicked on all levels. On offense, the team showed off new offensive additions A.J. Green, James Conner, and rookie Rondale Moore.
Defensively, the Cardinals dominated as well. Chandler Jones terrorized Ryan Tannehill and the Titans’ offense to the tune of five sacks and free-agent signing J.J. Watt and rookie Zaven Collins looked good as well.
Week 2 was more of an offensive shootout. The Cardinals survived a late, game-winning field goal attempt by the Minnesota Vikings to win 34-33 and stay undefeated. It was Moore’s coming-out party (7 catches, 114 yards, one touchdown), and Murray was phenomenal, too. He passed for 400 yards and ran for 31 more.
The early-season success puts Murray in the MVP conversation, but the former Oklahoma Sooner isn’t fully happy with how his offense is performing.
Quarterback Kyler Murray still isn’t happy with the Cardinals offense
In just two games, the Arizona Cardinals offense has put up 651 passing yards, 239 rushing yards, and scored nine touchdowns. However, the team’s signal-caller says there are still too many mistakes. Murray said after the Vikings game, per ESPN:
I tell [reporters] all the time, it comes down to shooting ourselves in the foot and stopping ourselves. We score, it feels easy, and it feels fun. And then when we turn the ball over, negative plays, it’s like, ‘Damn, that s— feels ugly.’ But it is what it is. We have to continue to get better and continue to practice.Kyler Murray on the Arizona Cardinals offense
The self-inflicted wounds Murray is taking about include five offensive penalties for 40 yards, two interceptions, and three sacks against Minnesota.
Even with the issues, Kingsbury’s spread offense is looking legit for the first time since the former Texas Tech coach brought it to the Big Leagues. In addition to Murray’s magic when plays break down, the team’s abundance of skill position talent is the driving force in 2021.
The Cardinals boast possibly the deepest and most talented WR group in the NFL. DeAndre Hopkins, Green, Moore, and Christian Kirk give the Cardinals four legitimate threats on the outside. The thunder and lightning combination of Conner and Chas Edmonds is a solid backfield rotation as well.
If the Cardinals can “clean a lot of stuff up,” as Murray hopes, this offense could be truly terrifying.
Murray and company should be 3-0 after Week 3
Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL (“on any given Sunday…” and all that), but a Cardinals victory over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend seems assured.
As good as former No. 1 overall pick Murray and his former college-turned-pro coach are looking in their third year together, their opposite numbers — No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence and first-time NFL coach Urban Meyer — look equally as lost so far this season.
The Jags are 27th in the league in total yards and 39th in points per game. Lawrence has a 50% completion rate so far to go with his five interceptions (four of which came in Week 1). As for Meyer, he’s looked overmatched at the professional level. After his last game, he actually told Denver head coach Vic Fangio that the NFL feels “like playing Alabama” each week, per the Sporting News.
The game is an early start in Jacksonville, but even with that working against them, the Cardinals should prevail on Sunday. With the 49ers taking on the Green Bay Packers and the Rams facing off against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it isn’t hard to envision a scenario where the Arizona Cardinals are the top team in the NFC West heading into Week 4.
It is a real possibility and, if the offense truly hasn’t reached its potential as Kyler Murray believes, the division and possibly the entire NFL should be on notice.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference