Cardinals vs. Washington: Preview, Matchups, Injuries and Predictions
The Red Sea may look more like an ocean of empty red seats, but the Arizona Cardinals are back at State Farm Stadium to open their home slate. First up: the Washington Football Team.
The game kicks off Sunday at 1:05 p.m. PT.
TV: Fox with Dick Stockton, Brady Quinn and Sara Walsh (sideline reporter)
Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona's Sports Station
Washington and Arizona had similar Week 1 experiences in the sense that both came back from double-digit deficits to defeat favored 2019 playoff teams.
The Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers 24-20 and Washington beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17.
The Cardinals are 1-0 for the first time since 2015, but have yet to earn a winning record in September since then. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury posted the team's September record from the past four years as motivation. It was a putrid 2-11-1.
This year, they have a golden opportunity to get off to a strong start. They defeated the defending NFC champions already, and their next four games are against teams that did not make the playoffs last year nor were expected to by most of Sports Illustrated's analysts.
Last Sunday was a strong start, as the connection between quarterback Kyler Murray and newly added receiver DeAndre Hopkins was in full force. Hopkins had 14 receptions. Plus, the defense made multiple stops on third and fourth downs in crucial moments.
Washington only won three games last year, but this is not a team devoid of talent. They have five first-round picks on the defensive line, perhaps their strongest unit. Chase Young was the second overall pick in 2020, and is the Vegas favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. He already has 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
As a team, Washington sacked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz eight times last week.
On offense, the Washington Football Team is very young with second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins and second-year top receiver Terry McLaurin. They had the lowest-scoring offense last year, and did not make many moves to bolster the unit. The young core getting experience seems to be a priority.
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury announced on Friday that the Cardinals will be without tight end Maxx Williams and center Mason Cole on Sunday. Williams (ankle) played last week, but struggled with injuries throughout camp.
Cole injured his hamstring last Sunday, but Kingsbury praised Lamont Gaillard's (53) efforts as his replacement. He will be tested against a monstrous Washington pass rush and strong interior line.
Rookie tackle Josh Jones (ankle) and linebacker Kylie Fitts (wrist) are questionable. Safety Jalen Thompson is on injured/reserve after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 1. Receiver KeeSean Johnson was placed on COVID-19/reserve last week, and remains away from the team.
Washington will be without linebacker Cole Holcomb (knee), while linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. (calf) and cornerback Kendall Fuller (knee) are questionable. Fuller is a key for Washington as someone who may match up against Hopkins.
Matchups to Watch
- Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones vs. Washington's left side of the offensive line:
Washington tackle Geron Christian and guard Wes Martin allowed nine pressures on 36 drop-backs last week. Pro Football Focus graded Christian's performance the worst among left tackles in Week 1.
Jones is going after the sacks record (22.5), and Sunday could be a golden opportunity for him to grab a few against a young line, especially if the Cardinals take a lead and force Washington to throw the ball.
- Second-year quarterbacks Kyler Murray vs. Dwayne Haskins:
Murray and Haskins have never faced each other, but Murray beat out Haskins in the 2018 Heisman race and for 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Washington head coach Ron Rivera has talked about how much Haskins has grown since last year, and this could be a statement game if he outdoes his draft classmate. More here.
- Murray vs. Washington's pass rush:
No team in football had as many sacks in Week 1 as Washington, but, although Wentz is not immobile, he isn't Murray.
Murray made plays with his legs last week with a 22-yard touchdown scramble and multiple escapes from sacks. If Washington gets the better of a Cardinals o-line without its starting center, then Murray's Houdini skills will be tested. Murray could also have help from having a receiver in Hopkins who can consistently get open.
An Old Friend:
In the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cardinals selected Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. He appeared in just two games and was waived after the season. Now a tight end, he grabbed four receptions and had a touchdown in his Washington debut last week.
No Fans for the Home Opener:
The Cardinals will not have fans at either of their first two home games.
"It's not ideal, not to have our fans in the building, but this is what we're dealing with now," receiver Larry Fitzgerald said this week. "We have to adjust. We've got to go out there and play and execute and win ... hopefully at some point throughout the course of the year we'll be able to have our faithful back in the building, but right now we've got to deal with it."
By the Numbers:
5: First-round draft picks on the Washington defensive line. DE Chase Young, 2nd overall in 2020; DE Montez Sweat, 19th overall in 2019; DT Daron Payne, 18th overall in 2018; DT Jonathan Allen, 17th overall in 2017; DE Ryan Kerrigan, 11th overall in 2011.
6: Number of receptions DeAndre Hopkins needs Sunday to set the NFL record for most receptions in the first two games with a new team. Earl Cooper with San Francisco in 1980 and Eric Metcalf with Atlanta in 1995 had 19. The Cardinals' Anquan Boldin had 18 in 2003 as did Jamison Crowder of the N.Y. Jets last season. Hopkins had 14 receptions last Sunday against the 49ers.
Another consensus among the AllCardinals team. Washington has some intriguing pieces, but Arizona has more proven talent on offense and Jones is a nightmare matchup for the Washington line.
Howard Balzer: Cardinals win 31-13
Mason Kern: Cardinals win 28-17
Alex Weiner: Cardinals win 24-16
Betting odds: Cardinals -7