NFL.com analyst lists Cardinals as playoff contenders in NFC hierarchy
NFL.com analyst Marc Sessler constructed an NFC hierarchy with the draft less than three weeks away.
He placed the Arizona Cardinals in the “playoff contenders” tier with the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles.
The Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers made up the top tier, while the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys were a step below.
The New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Washington Commanders, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons made up the lower grouping.
Sessler questioned which version of the Cardinals from last season is to be taken more seriously: the one that started 10-2 or finished 1-5 including a 34-11 playoff loss to the Rams.
Who are the Cardinals? The high-flying spaceship that soared to a 10-2 start? Or the floundering caravan that careened off a cliff into total midnight with four losses in their final five games before flatlining out of existence in a 34-11 loss to the Rams in the Wild Card Round? … The draft is a sure bet to bring edge-rushing help and big uglies along the D-line. One burning concern lingers, though: Will Kyler show up to camp without a new deal?
The Cardinals struggled with injuries down the stretch and will get a boost with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins coming back in 2022. Arizona also retained several key contributors like running back James Conner and tight end Zach Ertz.
However, they lost starters on both sides of the ball including edge rusher Chandler Jones and wide receiver Christian Kirk to free agency.
The organization gave head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim extensions through 2027, hitching their wagon to the duo for the foreseeable future. Quarterback Kyler Murray is next in line, eligible for his first extension entering Year 4.
The Cardinals improved their record in each of the past three seasons under Kingsbury and Murray, although late-season falloffs plagued them in 2020 and 2021.
They were the top seed in the NFC more than halfway through the 2021 season but floundered an opportunity to win the division and secure a top-three seed in a Week 17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Arizona has eight picks in the upcoming draft to round out the roster and continue to plug holes.