The Return Of J.J. Watt Changes Everything For The Cardinals’ Super Bowl Hopes

Arizona Cardinals player JJ Watt makes a surprise return from a shoulder injury that initially was diagnosed as season-ending. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals enter Sunday’s season finale needing a win against the Seahawks and a loss by the Rams to win the NFC West title and secure a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

If Zona’ doesn’t win the division, a return trip to Dallas to face the Cowboys is the likely matchup in the playoffs’ first round.

The Rams meet the San Francisco 49ers, a team L.A. has lost five consecutive matchups against. So a NFC West title is still in play for the Cardinals. 

Star defensive lineman J.J. Watt is returning from injured reserve, which should give the Redbirds a huge lift.

Watt was considered lost for the season after suffering a shoulder injury.

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The Loss Of Watt Weakened The Cardinals

The Cardinals were undefeated and looking like real Super Bowl contenders before Watt went down.

The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 6 after surgery to repair a torn labrum, rotator cuff and torn biceps.

All are injuries he sustained in a 31-5 win against his former Houston Texans team in Week 7.

Prior to his injury, the Cardinals’ defense was playing at an extremely high level. And although Watt’s stats weren’t eye-popping (16 tackles, 10 quarterback hits, one sack and two forced fumbles), the fact that teams had to game plan for him allowed defensive end Chandler Jones to feast on one-on-one blocking weekly.

Jones had a five-sack opening day effort in a 38-13 win over the Tennessee Titans, but since Watts has been sidelined Jones’ sack production has dipped.

Jones has only had 4.5 sacks since that opening day drubbing of the Titans but he seems to be getting his footing back the last couple of weeks with a few forced fumbles and sacks. 

The Play Of Kyler Murray And Health Of DeAndre Hopkins Are Vital To Zona’s Super Bowl Chances

After a blistering start to the season, Murray tapered off a bit and then a subsequent ankle injury didn’t help matters.

Things really came to a head in a disheartening road loss to the hapless Lions. Murray was erratic and favoring his ankle just about the entire afternoon.

In his last two starts he’s been much better, minus some missed throws. In a home loss to the Colts, Murray was good enough to win without some key offensive pieces.

Last week at Dallas he played his best game in about six to eight weeks. His lateral and short area quickness looked to be back, and the dimes he dropped to receivers looked like the Murray we’ve come to know.

He’ll need to get the dynamic Peanut Hopkins back, as well as the scoring machine James Conner at running back.

 

The three-headed monster on offense, combined with a Watt-inspired defense, was the reason this team started 7-0 with road wins at the aforementioned Titans, Rams and Browns by a combined score of 112-47.

Watt’s effect goes beyond his personal numbers. He’s a veteran, an inspirational leader and future Hall of a Famer who gets heavy respect from the younger players. If he’s able to go at close to 100 percent, then having him back makes the Cardinals a formidable playoff team capable of getting to Super Sunday.


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