The league leading Arizona Cardinals (10-2) head into “Monday Night Football” on Dec. 13 against their division rival Los Angeles Rams (8-4). Both teams have Super Bowl aspirations and tonight’s game is pivotal.
The Cardinals are led by their all-everything quarterback Kyler Murray, who has transformed the Cardinals franchise. A starter since day one, Murray has improved on the subtleties of the quarterback position, and that has led to more wins.
During his rookie campaign the team was 5-10-1, and he was offensive rookie of the year. The team improved to 8-8 in his sophomore campaign, and he was selected to his first Pro Bowl. This year they have the best record in the league and he’s missed three games.
At 5 feet 10, Murray plays the position differently than Buffalo Bills signal caller Josh Allen and Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert. But he’s every bit as good and more.
Murray is ranked seventh in Football Outsiders DYAR, or Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This measures a QB’s value above replacement level, taking into account situation and opponent.
He ranks No. 1 in DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. That is the value per play of a QB over an average quarterback in the same game situations.
In simple terms, DYAR measures total value. DVOA measures value per play.
Murray’s also ranked fourth in the popular QBR metric.
These are excellent numbers for a third-year quarterback who has missed three games this season. He was a serious MVP candidate before the missed games but still has the third-best Las Vegas odds (+900) to win the award.
Murray’s career in Arizona synced up with head coach Kliff Kingsbury as both began their tenure in 2019, although Kingsbury was familiar with Murray and his game long before they were a coach-QB tandem in the NFL.
As a college head coach at Texas Tech University, Kingsbury was enamored with a young Murray and even recruited him, although Murray ended up at Oklahoma.
“[Kingsbury] has always felt that way about my game,” Murray said. “Ever since high school, he came and visited me, always hit me up on Twitter, recruiting me, stuff like that. I always knew how he felt about my game. Even when I was at Oklahoma and he was at Tech watching me, talking to my pops, stuff like that. He definitely did a lot when he said that.”
The coach and quarterback took their lumps together early but have rebuilt the culture and expectations in Arizona.
“We’ve been in this foxhole together knowing everybody’s doubting us and knowing that everybody wants us to fail,” Kingsbury said. “That’s been a situation that’s really bonded us.”
The Super Bowl is certainly a possibility, though they’ll have stiff competition in the Green Bay Packers and defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Right now both teams sit 1/2 game behind the Cardinals. A win tonight by Arizona puts them one game clear.
The Cardinals want home field advantage throughout the playoffs and don’t want to wind up in a situation where they have to play both teams to gain a Super Bowl berth. Defeating Aaron Rodgers and the GOAT Tom Brady in one playoffs isn’t easy.
One step at a time. Tonight it’s about beating the Rams, and the Cardinals come into this game with their elite quarterback, Kyler Murray.
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