It was not the ending that the Arizona Cardinals or their fans had hoped for. After securing a playoff spot for the first time since 2015, the Red Birds made a quick postseason exit.
The Cardinals lost in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs on Monday night as the Los Angeles Rams controlled the game from start to finish en route to a 34-11 victory.
This concludes the first Cardinals season with legal online sports betting in Arizona. However, it is hard not to walk away with a bittersweet taste in your mouth.
On the one hand, the Cards shattered preseason betting projections. But on the other, the team’s struggles down the stretch hurt many bettors hoping to see seasonlong player prop bets cash in.
Good news: Cardinals defy the odds with a playoff run
I know it is hard, but if you think back to September, seeing the Cardinals make a playoff run would have seemed like a successful season. Before the season started, Arizona sportsbooks did not have high hopes for the Cards.
Let’s start with wins and losses. Most sportsbooks set the over/under for Arizona wins at 8.5. For you to lose the ‘over’ on that bet, the Cardinals would have needed to finish the regular season with an 8-9 record. One app, Caesars Sportsbook AZ, was even giving a ‘push’ at eight wins. Arizona responded by winning eight of its first nine games, cashing in any ‘over’ bets by early November.
Also, heading into the season, oddsmakers did not give favorable Cardinals betting odds to the team reaching the playoffs. Across online sportsbooks, Arizoan received the worst odds to win the NFC West. The Cards were also given at least +100 odds to make the playoffs on all the sportsbooks.
Even after their 8-1 start, the Cardinals never became the favorites to win the Super Bowl or even to win the NFC. Losses to non-playoff teams like the Carolina Panthers and the Detroit Lions didn’t help build much confidence outside the Arizona fanbase.
The team went 3-5 in its last eight games. Imagine how we would have felt if they had started 3-5 and finished 8-1. Had the results been flip-flopped, maybe we wouldn’t have this sour taste in our mouths about this season.
Great season for Cardinals player props ‘under’ bettors
Seasonlong player props bets are hard to forecast. As a fan, you what to be optimistic about the possibility of certain players having great campaigns. Especially given that we were going to see 17 games this season.
However, all it takes is one injury or the emergence of another player to derail those ‘over’ bets. In the case of the Cardinals, injuries became the number one culprit in shutting down a boatload of player props this season.
Kyler Murray late-season cool-down hammers the under
Let’s start with the Cardinals’ franchise player, quarterback Kyler Murray. Here were some of his betting projections heading into the season.
- Passing yards: 4,150.5 (DraftKings)
- Passing touchdowns: 25.5 (BetMGM)
- Rushing yards: 680.5 (DraftKings)
- Rushing touchdowns: 7.5 (BetMGM)
His over/under projections going into the year seemed reasonable given that he passed for 3,971 yards and 26 touchdowns last year during a 16-game season. K-1 was on fire to start the 2021 season. But a midseason ankle injury slowed his momentum, and an injury to his favorite target DeAndre Hopkins put it on ice.
Murray finished the season with 3,787 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 423 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in 14 games. That’s four ‘unders’ hitting on Murray’s major betting categories.
Injuries shut down season for DeAndre Hopkins
Quite possibly, the most critical loss during this season for the Cardinals was when Hopkins got hurt. He was a massive part of the Cards’ offensive game plan. However, he wasn’t putting up the All-Pro numbers he had in years past.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook AZ, Hopkins’ over/under for receiving yards heading into the season was at 1350.5. He also had the sixth-best odds of leading the NFL in receiving yards at +1000. However, in 10 games this season, D-Hop had 572 receiving yards. That put him on pace to have just over 972 receiving yards in 17 games.
It was not a strong year for the Cardinals’ number-one receiver. But it may not have been hard to lean on the ‘under’ for this bet. Arizona added AJ Green and Rondale Moore to its receiving corps. And you can’t forget about the midseason acquisition of tight end Zach Ertz and Murray missing three games. Altogether, it makes that 1,350.5 mark tough to reach.
Running back by committee flip-flops betting projections
One of the more interesting results was how the futures betting factored in for Cardinals running backs.
Chase Edmonds seemed ready for a breakout year. He was going into the season as the clear number one back, and fans hoped he would be productive. DraftKings set his over/under for rushing yards at 650.5. And him being the dual-threat that he is, the over/under for his receptions was set at 46.5.
There was some concern that Murray would take away some of those opportunities for rushing yards. But we did not expect James Conner to become such a focal point of the Cardinals offensive attack. Conner’s over/under for rushing yards was set at 595.5. It seems high for a backup running back at first glance. But remember, it is a 17-game schedule.
By season’s end, the expectations on these backs did a complete 180°. Conner became the go-to guy, hitting the ‘over’ on his projection with 752 rushing yards. He even added 15 rushing touchdowns. Edmonds missed a handful of games due to injury. But even when he was healthy, he never reached the level many expected him to. He ended up with 592 rushing yards and caught 43 passes, hitting the ‘under’ on both projections.
Cardinals miss out on NFL postseason awards
The Cardinals’ hot start to the 2021 season pushed many players near the top in many futures betting categories. However, their late-season slide pushed them into the background.
Murray was once the favorite for the MVP award. Now it appears that award will end up in the hands of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers or Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
James Conner was in the mix for some offensive awards. He was the betting favorite to lead the league in rushing touchdowns at one time. However, the Indianapolis Colts’ Jonathan Taylor ended up running away with the rushing title and the rushing TD title. Arizona’s struggles also pushed Conner out of the running for Offensive Player of the Year.
There were high hopes for the young guns on this Cardinals team. Rookie receiver Rondale Moore grabbed a lot of attention early in the season with his eye-popping big plays. However, he did not maintain that momentum, and the splash plays were few and far between late in the year. That moved him out of the Offensive Rookie of the Year picture.
Lastly, the roller coaster ride of a season for head coach Kliff Kingsbury was a wild one. Before the season started, many analysts thought Kingsbury’s chances of being the first coach fired were high. But after leading the team to a 10-2 start, he became the favorite to win Coach of the Year.
The 1-4 finish to the season snatched the award from his grasp. Monday’s embarrassing playoff loss will likely have many predicting that he starts next season on the hot seat once again.