Merry Christmas Eve, Cardinals fans! It sure doesn’t feel like Christmas (it’s a balmy 75° here in Chandler as I write this), but that’s desert life for you. I hope everyone out there is staying safe and healthy and has some holiday fun planned—including watching the Redbirds play on Christmas Day.
I also hope everyone gets everything on their wish lists—especially their Cardinals wish lists. Here’s what’s on mine, starting with stocking stuffers (smaller, nice-to-haves), moving on to what’s under the tree, and ending with that one big present you’ve had your eye on.
4,000 Passing Yards for Kyler Murray
A couple statistical milestones would make some nice stocking stuffers. One is a 4,000-yard passing season for Kyler. He hasn’t yet hit that mark as a pro, falling just 29 yards short last season (and he would’ve hit it if he didn’t get hurt in that Rams game in Week 17). He’s standing at 3,039 yards right now, and he’s got that extra seventeenth game to hit 4,000. He needs to average just over 320 yds/gm in the final three weeks to hit that number. Very doable. Let’s start with a big 300-yard day against the Colts middle-of-the-pack passing defense tomorrow night.
Two 1,000-Yard Receivers
The Cardinals haven’t had multiple 1,000-yard receivers since 2015, when Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown accomplished that feat in the final year of the Bruce Arians/Carson Palmer era. Coming into the season, DeAndre Hopkins figured to be a lock for 1,000 yards, but he’s been banged up all year and is now on the IR. Instead, the unsung duo of Christian Kirk and A.J. Green are within striking distance. They have 812 and 718 yards, respectively. So they’d need to average 62.7 and 94 yards to get there. Kirk is on pace, but Green needs some big games—and he’ll have the opportunity with Hop out. Let’s see him crack triple digits on Christmas Day.
NFL Awards Recognition
The Cardinals already got a little recognition, with Kyler, James Conner, Chandler Jones, and Budda Baker recently named to the Pro Bowl—with all but Conner starting. Of course, we all hope none of them will actually wind up playing in the game, but we’ll get to that later. But other than the Pro Bowl nods, I’d love to see some Cardinals get some buzz for some of the end-of-season awards. Not necessarily win them (although it’d be nice), but get some buzz. Kyler for MVP or OPOY? Kliff for Coach of the Year? We’d need to win out for those, but that’s why this is a wish list! Green for Comeback Player of the Year? Why not!
No Division Opponent in the First Round of the Playoffs
This is probably thinking too far ahead—we haven’t even clinched a playoff berth yet—but I’d love to avoid the Rams or Niners in the first round. (A bye doesn’t seem to be in the picture anymore.) If the playoffs started today, we’d be playing the Rams, who just beat us pretty soundly a couple weeks ago. And the Niners are rounding into form—no one wants to play them right now. I’d much rather face a team like the Vikings, Eagles, or Saints in the wild card round if possible.
Under The Tree
A Win Against the Colts
Christmas is obviously about family and togetherness and all that good stuff, but a third-straight Cardinals loss would ruin my Christmas weekend. (Just like losing to the Niners the day after Christmas did last year.) We need to get our offense back on track, and the defense will have a tough time against Jonathan Taylor, but this is a game we can and should win. A cold (or hot!) beverage, a plate of delicious meats and sides, family by my side, and the Cardinals winning on the flatscreen. Sounds like a perfect Christmas to me!
No Major COVID Issues
Like the rest of the world, COVID and its new Transformers-sounding Omicron variant have been hitting the sports world hard. Several big-name players have hit the COVID list in recent days, but so far, there have only been two Cardinals to hit the list in this latest wave—C Rodney Hudson and P Andy Lee. Both are obviously key players, and Hudson’s absence has been especially noticeable. Let’s hope the team keeps this thing contained and that we don’t lose anyone else—and that Hudson and Lee recover quickly with no lingering side effects.
A Division Title
The NFC West title seemed like fait accompli just a few weeks ago—we’d have all but locked it up with a Monday Night Football win against the Rams. But they don’t just hand out division titles—they have to be earned, and the Cardinals haven’t even come close to earning the division crown in recent weeks. After the pathetic loss last week to the pathetic Detroit Lions, we’re now tied with the Rams, although we currently own the tiebreaker with a better division record (4-1 vs. 3-2). This could very well come down to Week 18—if both teams still have the same record, we’d clinch with a win at home against the Seahawks regardless of what the Rams do against the Niners. The division title is critical—not only would it be a nice form of validation for a great season, but we’d be guaranteed to play at home in the wild card round. That’s huge if we are going to go on…
The Big One
A Deep Playoff Run
Up until recent weeks, this team has looked like a bona fide Super Bowl contender. Not so much the last two weeks, but we still have three games left to right the ship in time to make a run in the postseason. Arizona sports fans got a taste of that postseason success earlier this year with that magical Suns run that came up just short of an NBA championship, so to have the Cardinals also make a deep run would be amazing. After the promise this team has shown, anything less than an NFC Championship Game appearance would have to count as a disappointment. This team has the talent to get there—and perhaps beyond—but we have to show we have the discipline. My biggest Cardinals Christmas list is that we do just that and make more noise than nine reindeer and a fat dude on a sleigh on your roof. Here’s hoping!