ESPN’s Graziano: Arizona Cardinals winning NFC West not an overreaction

Nov 19, 2020, 6:06 AM | Updated: 7:34 am
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury works the sidelines during the second half of an NFL f...
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury works the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in East Rutherford. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Here we are, 10 weeks into the NFL season and the Arizona Cardinals are still making national headlines.

The last one, however, might be the leader in the clubhouse.

Capping off a 32-30 win over the Buffalo Bills with the “Hail Murray,” the Cardinals are the talk of the NFL town yet again.

But it’s not just the singular play that has the nation buzzing.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano believes the Cardinals’ performance through a little more than half the season isn’t only playoff worthy, it’s NFC West winning.

The analyst looked at five close divisional races following the aftermath of Week 10 and believes the Cardinals taking their division isn’t as farfetched as some think.

The 6-3 Cardinals are on a tightrope, as their past three games have all been decided by a field goal or less, but they’re right there with Seattle and L.A. as the race heats up.

The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. They have the division’s best point differential, the division’s best road record and a head-to-head victory over Seattle with a rematch looming Thursday night. They have won four of their past five games, losing only to those red-hot Dolphins during that stretch, and they still have two games left against NFC East teams (though … those might not be the pushovers they once appeared to be).

The Cardinals offense continues to lead the league in total yards per game (425.4). The running game is tops as well, edging out the Baltimore Ravens (164) for the No.1 spot with 168.9 yards per outing.

Much of that can be credited to second-year quarterback Kyler Murray.

Completing 212 of his 311 pass attempts (68.2%), the signal caller has thrown for 2,375 yards and 17 touchdowns in nine games. The QB has chipped in 604 yards and a team-leading 10 scores on the ground.

He trails only starting running back Kenyan Drake (612) on the team in rushing yards, and is No. 2 in the league in touchdowns behind Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook’s 12.

In the win over the Bills, Murray totaled three scores and more than 300 yards as the Cardinals edged out Buffalo thanks to Murray’s arm and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ massive hands in the closing seconds. It marked Murray’s fourth fourth-quarter comeback and fifth game-winning drive of his young career.

Graziano sees the potential the Cardinals bring to the table, but also notes where their weak point is.

The defense needs to tighten up. They aren’t going to win many games where they give up 30-plus points. But Seattle (6-3) is wobbling, having lost three of its past four, and the Seahawks’ defense makes Arizona’s look like the ’85 Bears. The Rams also are 6-3, but four of those wins are against that NFC East, and they just won their first division game by beating Seattle on Sunday. It’s hard to know for sure how good they are.

Excluding the Miami Dolphins’ defensive touchdown in the Cardinals’ Week 9 loss, Arizona has allowed at least 27 points over the last three games, with 34 given up to the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football and 30 allowed on Sunday.

But as Graziano stated, the Seahawks are in a far worse position when it comes to defense, and host the Cardinals this Thursday night.

The Legion of Boom has turned into the Legion of Gloom this season for Seattle, as the defense ranks dead last in total yards per game (448.3) and passing yards per game (353.3).

Their rush defense is a bit better in the yards department (95 per contest), but has been gashed by opposing rushers to the tune of 14 touchdowns. It’s the third-worst mark in the league behind the Bills (15) and Detroit Lions (16).

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ESPN’s Graziano: Arizona Cardinals winning NFC West not an overreaction