The Arizona Cardinals need Kyler Murray to have an MVP-caliber season to contend for the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Anyone with the faith to place a bet on the team or its quarterback now would be rewarded handsomely if Kliff Kingsbury lifts the Lombardi Trophy in February 2023. Betting on either could actually be a wise financial decision.
Kingsbury’s squad, which is coming off an 11-6 season, is currently getting 3500/1 odds from Caesars Sportsbook in three states, according to ESPN. Only six other NFC teams have better odds. The Las Vegas sharps are usually better predictors of season outcomes than pundits, and the smart money is hedging on the Cardinals to make it to the postseason.
Then, with just a couple of games standing between the franchise and history, anything is possible with a hot quarterback and an opportunistic defense.
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Respecting Murray’s MVP Talents
Murray’s stats are not far off from an MVP level. Throwing for 3,787 yards and 24 touchdowns with a near 70% completion rate is a great foundation going into the fourth year as a pro. He’s never thrown for fewer than 3,700 yards, and 4,500 looks possible with a receiving corps that now includes Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.
Having the legs to extend plays (1,786 career rushing yards) and add clips to the highlight reel just helps to sell the MVP pitch. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers have used this blueprint to win the last four MVP awards.
Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, flirted with 40 combined touchdowns in his second season, falling three short. However, he followed that up with a 13-fumble season in 2021. Being careless with the football and sustaining injuries is not part of the Rea Sea recipe for success.
An MVP season at 2000/1 odds, according to Tipico Sportsbook, would go a long way to securing a new contract in Arizona and a greater level of respect for Murray in NFL circles.
DeAndre Hopkins will have fresh legs after serving a six-game PED suspension. Brown was brought in to give Murray a hot route option while throwing behind a questionable offensive line. However, Arizona will face seven of the best slot defenders in the NFL, according to Doug Farrar of USA Today’s Touchdown Wire.
Kingsbury’s play-calling will have to be on point or Murray will be under too much pressure to win the game much less any individual awards.
Offensive Line Playing With Underdog Attitude
Pro Football Focus ranked the Cardinals 23rd overall going into training camp, and the offensive line, in particular, was given very poor grades. Not one player was labeled as being at least average.
D.J. Humphries and Justin Pugh were seen as below average but acceptable. Kelvin Beachum, Rodney Hudson and Will Hernandez would be practice squad fodder on other rosters, according to PFF.
Pugh leads the O-line with 45 starts over the last three seasons. The 31-year-old left guard was persuaded to come back for another season to pave the way for RB James Conner. ESPN offers a different scouting report, saying Pugh “has ranked among the top 10 guards in ESPN’s pass block win rate and has also finished among the top five left guards in snaps per blown block, according to SIS charting.
Pugh considered retirement after the season, but Arizona general manager Steve Keim convinced him to return on a reworked deal.”
Kingsbury praised Pugh’s versatility when talking to the media during training camp, adding that Pugh is a “Great leader, great professional and I think he’s playing some of his best football right now.”
There is always a team that makes a surprising run to the postseason. Someone besides the old guard has to win the MVP eventually. Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals see no reason why they cannot pull off the incredible next year. In the summer heat, a $100 bet on an MVP season ending in a Super Bowl win does not look so bad. And it would net a bettor just over $75,000.