For the Arizona Cardinals, gone are the days when NFL MVP finalist Carson Palmer connected with 11-time Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald in the NFC Championship game.
After a forgettable season, future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt is spending his first year in retirement like the rest of us – fawning over Taylor Swift. Quarterback Kyler Murray is still recovering from surgery after tearing his ACL in December during a face-off with the New England Patriots. Although the QB says he’s feeling better, he is expected to miss games early in the season. The team also hasn’t filled the gaping holes left by one-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green and record-holding kicker Matt Prater.
Grit your teeth, er, beaks, Red Sea. The Cardinals are the team most likely to shatter hearts this season, according to a new study from NJ Bet, a sports gambling clearinghouse in New Jersey.
Researchers weighed year-over-year win percentage, injuries, age of the roster, number of Pro Bowlers, and recent postseason performance in determining that the Cardinals were most likely to let down fans this fall.
The Cardinals have the oldest roster in the NFL and subsequently saw the worst year-over-year win percentage of any franchise last year, falling from an 11-6 playoff team in 2021 to a 4-13 division loser in 2022.
Arizona is currently ranked No. 32 in most major power rankings, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Pro Football Network. Spoiler alert, there are only 32 clubs in the league. It seems that even with a new head coach and general manager in Jonathan Gannon and Monti Ossenfort, the team is destined to flop.
Not surprisingly, according to data from DraftKings, the Cardinals are the least likely team in the NFL to win the Super Bowl next year at 200-1 odds.
“From the beginning of last season, the Cardinals have been receiving bad news,” devout fan Soren Schneider told Phoenix New Times. Among that bad news: Star wide receiver Deandre Hopkins was suspended for six games and now might have one foot out the door, the status of Murray’s knee injury is an unknown, and center Rodney Hudson just became the most recent key player to retire.
“It is what it is … sometimes you’re just unlucky,” Schneider said. “To be competitive for a Super Bowl, every aspect of the organization has to be handled good, and players have to stay healthy. This isn’t the case for us — we deal with injuries all season long.”
Rigged or Just Bad Luck?
The recent study from NJ Bet also shows that Cardinals fans disproportionately believe the NFL is rigged against them.
Overall, 1 in 6 NFL fans believes the game is rigged. But the survey found that a greater number of Cardinals supporters — 1 in 3 — feel the same way, placing them among the top five most paranoid fan bases. What’s more, half of Cardinals fans believe, at a minimum, that refs play favorites.
“As an Arizona sports fan, I always think calls go against us,” Phoenix resident Santino Di Santo told New Times.
The thought isn't as crazy as it may seem. In 2008, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison after he admitted to rigging the 2007 Western Conference Finals series against the Phoenix Suns. Not that the Suns need any help being one of the most cursed teams in the NBA.
Fans like Di Santo, who vividly remember the frustration of being cheated out of a trip to the NBA Finals more than 15 years ago, have similar concerns when it comes to the NFL.
“When the Cardinals play anyone in our division, it always feels as if we get called for holdings and false starts, but they get away with it,” he said. “Especially the [Los Angeles] Rams.”
DraftKings lists the Cardinals’ odds to win the NFC West this year as 20-1 — worse than the Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, and San Francisco 49ers. The team’s odds of taking the conference for the first time since 2008 are 100-1, also the worst in the NFC.
“This division belongs to the 49ers right now, and the Seahawks aren’t regressing any time soon. The Cardinals would not have gotten rid of a coach and general manager in the early stages of a long-term extension if they didn’t know how bad a shape they were in,” said Sports Illustrated reporter Connor Orr.
Jim Dee, a Cardinals fan from Kingman, joked that he hopes the NFL turns out to be rigged. “Might be the only way the Cardinals can win a Super Bowl,” he laughed.
Other Fan Theories
Then there are those such as Josh Martinez, a Cardinals fan from New Mexico, who said the team is responsible for its own failure. Even so, Martinez added that the odds are stacked against the Red Sea.
“I would say it’s ‘influenced’ rather than ‘rigged,’” he said. “The game happens so fast that it is impossible to completely rig it. That said, I think the refs have too much power to turn a game in one team’s favor. A bad call here, a missed call there … I call shenanigans.”
Whether the sport is rigged against our beloved hometown squad — or, if the Cardinals just need to suck for a while as they enter rebuild mode — it’s going to be a long NFL season here in the desert.
But hey, at least we have a kick-ass mascot.