We’re 13 games into the 2023 Arizona Cardinals season, and the team is right where most of us thought they’d be: one of the worst records in the league and in the running for a top-3 draft pick. The team has largely been more competitive than expected under new HC Jonathan Gannon, but the record is what it is.
But even 3-10 teams have something to play for. That’s especially true for the Cardinals, who should be one of the key dominoes in what is looking like another tumultuous NFL offseason. So today let’s take a quick look at our schedule over the final month and discuss what’s at stake for this rebuilding team.
Week 15: vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 16: at Chicago Bears
Week 17: at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 18: vs. Seattle Seahawks
That looks like 1-3, maybe 2-2 at best depending on what the Seahawks have at stake in Week 18. And don’t count out an 0-4 finish either—Chicago in December is always rough, and the Bears defense has been playing well as of late. Or can the team pull of another improbable upset of the playoff-bound Niners or Eagles?
At Stake: Winless in the Division?
The Cardinals currently sit at 0-4 in the division after getting swept by the Rams and suffering road losses to the Niners and Seahawks. They have two divisional games left: home contests against those Niners and Seahawks. They’ll need to win one to avoid going 0-6 in the NFC West—something the Cardinals have never done since joining the division in 2002. Even last season’s squad managed to get a win against the Rams. No one has high hopes for this week’s game against the Niners, but expect the team to circle that Seahawks game in Week 18 if we don’t pull off the upset this week.
At Stake: Guys Playing for Their Jobs
The Cardinals have a ton of free agents for Gannon and new GM Monti Ossenfort to evaluate down the stretch. Which guys are “their guys” and which guys do they let walk? Walter did a great job previewing our free agent class last week. The biggest name is Hollywood Brown, who might be looking for more money than his production warrants. Other starters and key reserves who are free agents include Elijah Wilkinson, Trystan Colon, Greg Dortch, Kevin Strong, Leki Fotu, Josh Woods, Krys Barnes, Zeke Turner, and Blake Gillikin. Also: These final four games are the last chance for rookies to get reps and make an impression.
At Stake: A Decision on Kyler Murray’s Future
This is a huge decision and is tied closely to the next item. Is Kyler Murray the team’s franchise QB moving forward or not? Kyler has played pretty well since returning from his torn ACL in Week 10. He hasn’t blown anyone away, of course, but he’s acquitted himself well as he recovers from nearly a year off while adjusting to a new system with not a ton of talent around him. But would the team be better off moving on from him and drafting an elite QB prospect like Caleb Williams or Drake Maye if they’re in position to do so? The current thinking around the league seems to be that the Cardinals will move forward with Kyler and use our draft haul to build around him, but Kyler can make that decision a lot easier with improved play down the stretch.
At Stake: Draft Position
This is the biggest storyline for the Cardinals during the final four games of the season—yes, even bigger than the Kyler question. The Cardinals currently hold the #3 draft pick, which is probably about as low as they’d like to be given the talent at the top of the draft. They likely won’t be able to get the #1 pick—the Carolina Panthers are just that bad—but they have a shot at the #2 pick and should be able to hold onto that #3 pick with a 1-3 finish or worse. Getting the #2 pick would be huge if they wanted to trade back with one of the teams who needs a QB. And if they stick at #3, they can just take Marvin Harrison Jr. to (hopefully) give Kyler the #1 WR he’s been missing since DeAndre Hopkins. But they could play themselves out of a top-3 selection if they can put together a couple wins here down the stretch. So most Cardinals fans will be holding their nose and hoping we lose most or all of the final four games.
Are you one of those fans, or not? Vote in the poll below and let us know what you think about tanking—or anything else you think is at stake for the Cardinals down the stretch—in the comments.
Do you hope the Cardinals lose their final four games to assure a better draft pick?
This poll is closed
Yes, I have no qualms whatsoever about tanking.
Yes, but I don’t feel great about it.
I hope the team plays hard and the results will be what the results will be.
No, winning a game or two will help player development and culture building.
No, I hope we win out to end the season on a strong note and lay the groundwork for next season.