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2023 Arizona Cardinals best/worst case: What’s the difference?

The regular season is almost here, which means it’s season predictions time. There are always many ways a season can play out, but this year it might not matter much how many games the team wins.

NFL: Preseason-Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings
New HC Jonathan Gannon takes over on the sidelines for a rebuilding Cardinals team. What’s the floor and ceiling of this team in his first season?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The preseason is behind us and the 53-man roster (well, 52-man at first) has been unveiled, which means it’s finally time for the regular season. The Arizona Cardinals kick off the 2023 season on the road against the Washington Commanders in just over a week.

Around this time every year, I run through the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Cardinals before getting to my real predictions. (Like Lloyd Christmas, I was way off last season.)

But this year, I don’t think it makes sense to do two separate best/worst columns. For one, both scenarios are pretty ugly. Even the best-case scenario for this team almost certainly involves double-digit losses. That’s just the reality of a rebuilding team with a QB recovering from a torn ACL.

That said… given that we’re rebuilding, isn’t losing a bunch of games *actually* the best case? If we’re one of the worst teams in the league—if not the worst—then we get a high pick in a draft class with at least two coveted QB prospects in Caleb Williams and Drake Maye. PLUS we have the Houston Texans’ #1 pick to supercharge our rebuild. So I don’t think too many Cardinals fans will be sweating what is likely to be a bunch of Ls this season.

And what if the team surprises? Say Kyler Murray comes back with a vengeance and the new coaching staff gets the team playing above its talent level? I still think the best case would only be approaching .500… but that would be a great development! We’d know Ossenfort/Gannon were good hires, we’d have a franchise QB, and we’d still have a shot at the #1 pick with the Texans pick. Not too shabby at all.

So the Cardinals are basically playing with house money this season. If we’re one of the worst teams in the league, oh well. That’s what most are expecting and we get to reload in the draft next year. And if we’re better than expected, then we’ve got what might be the hardest part of a rebuild—installing a new, winning culture—out of the way and potentially an embarrassment of riches at QB. Either way, we’ll be in much better shape for 2024.

But just for gits and shiggles, I went through the team’s schedule twice and mocked up the usual best- and worst-case scenarios. Here’s what I came up with. (Note that the individual game results/scores are just window dressing; don’t think about them too much. I didn’t!)

2023 Cardinals Best/Worst Cases

Week Opponent Best Case Record Worst Case Record
Week Opponent Best Case Record Worst Case Record
1 at WAS W 20-17 1-0 L 13-23 0-1
2 vs. NYG L 16-24 1-1 L 14-26 0-2
3 vs. DAL L 17-28 1-2 L 17-31 0-3
4 at SF L 13-27 1-3 L 10-30 0-4
5 vs. CIN L 20-31 1-4 L 16-33 0-5
6 at LAR W 24-21 2-4 L 21-24 0-6
7 at SEA L 18-25 2-5 L 17-26 0-7
8 vs. BAL L 14-26 2-6 L 13-27 0-8
9 at CLE W 23-20 3-6 L 20-23 0-9
10 vs. ATL W 27-21 4-6 W 24-21 1-9
11 at HOU L 21-23 4-7 W 23-17 2-9
12 vs. LAR W 26-20 5-7 L 20-26 2-10
13 at PIT L 12-23 5-8 L 10-24 2-11
14 *BYE* 5-8 2-11
15 vs. SF L 19-30 5-9 L 18-35 2-12
16 at CHI W 24-20 6-9 W 23-21 3-12
17 at PHI L 20-33 6-10 L 19-36 3-13
18 vs. SEA W 16-13 7-10 L 13-16 3-14


  • I think the range of outcomes for this team is between three and seven wins… yuck. The three wins would tie for the fewest since the NFL switched to the 17-game schedule. This team certainly seems bad enough to tie that ignoble mark. (You may have heard that we are underdogs in every game this season.) But I really don’t see us winning fewer than three games—no team is really *that* bad, right? Seven wins seems like a stretch, but there are several “winnable” games in the second half of the schedule.
  • The first half of the schedule though… yikes. The first two games aren’t too bad (although we could and likely will still lose both), but the next six weeks are absolutely brutal. The easiest game is still a divisional road game (at the Rams) and the other teams in that stretch are all playoff contenders—if not Super Bowl contenders. We might very well start the season something like the 0-9 from the worst-case scenario.
  • Then that stretch of several “winnable” games goes until the bye week. Maybe we can pick up a couple wins in that November stretch. That Texans “Tank Bowl” game will be especially interesting since we own their #1 pick. If we win, we would make our own #1 pick slightly worse… but the Texans’ slightly better. And then the inverse if we lose. Sounds like a win-win to me, no matter the result!

That’s it for now. I’ll be back next week with my actual game-by-game season predictions. In the meantime, post your best- and worst-case scenarios below. What’s the floor for this team? Does it even exist? And what’s the ceiling? Is it like one of those Harry Potter closets? Give us your records and explanations in the comments.