2018 NFL Over-Under Win Totals: Josh Rosen can carry the Cardinals into contender status
Arizona is a pretty good value at their relatively low over/under
The 2017 Arizona Cardinals season could not have gone any worse. They got the Brinson Kiss of Death Super Bowl pick and all the bad things that come with it. The focal point of their offense, David Johnson, was the consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy football and promptly missed the entire season with a Week 1 injury. Starting quarterback Carson Palmer went down, and there wasn't an insurance policy in place. Credit Bruce Arians and an underrated defense for helping Arizona finish near .500.
It nearly cost them a shot at their franchise quarterback, but GM Steve Keim did an excellent job working the trade lines, securing a relatively cheap move up to No. 10, where Arizona landed Josh Rosen.
Their offseason approach to the quarterback position was being questioned but now looks pretty impressive: secure an upside-filled starter for expensive-looking market value (Sam Bradford), nab a backup with starting experience (Mike Glennon) and then make a trade up in the draft to get a franchise-caliber quarterback (Rosen). Doubling down on free agency and the draft has been a popular and successful method in recent years. The Cardinals biggest weakness a few months ago could be a strength all of a sudden.
Arizona's defense finished top-five in DVOA last season and didn't lose much. Tyrann Mathieu is a tough pill to swallow, but this is Steve Wilks' defense now and with Budda Baker there, you could argue the Honey Badger was an excess expense given his cap hit. Keim and the front office invested heavily in the offensive side of the ball during the draft, but the pieces are there for this defense to be very good again.
Squint hard enough at the offense and you can see something resembling a contender. Vegas isn't buying, though,.
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Early Schedule Analysis
This is a very friendly schedule out of the gates. Arizona gets three of four games at home to start, playing the Redskins (Week 1), Bears (Week 3) and Seahawks (Week 4) in Glendale. Week 2's matchup is against the Rams in Los Angeles, but 3-1 out of the gate isn't off the table if this team is better than people think. They then play the 49ers and Vikings on the road, before drawing the Broncos (TNF) and 49ers at home ahead of their Week 9 bye. Things are tough after: the Chiefs (away), Raiders (home), Chargers (away) and Packers (away) is a brutal four-game stretch out of the bye. Arizona closes with the Lions (home), Falcons (away), Rams (home) and Seahawks (away) isn't exactly easy to close out either. If Arizona wants to be considered a contender, it will need to start hot.
Why They'll Go Over
That opening stretch has me salivating for this over: win four games at home before the bye, beat the Raiders and the Lions at home after and even if they finish 6-10, they're still hitting the over. If you want to be more optimistic, consider that Pete Prisco said on the most recent edition of the Pick Six Podcast he's hearing really good things out of Arizona about how Rosen looks, that the rookie is picking up the offense very quickly. Bradford last threw the ball during an NFL game in Week 1 of 2017, but he looked GREAT lighting up the Saints for the Vikings last year. If he stays healthy, he'll be good. If he doesn't, Rosen can win games for this team. Larry Fitzgerald might be the third-best wide receiver in NFL history already and he's like a really nice cabernet, only getting better with age. He should be a target hog again in 2018 after averaging 108 receptions per year (not to mention 1,131 receiving yards) over the last three seasons. If Johnson plays a full season the offense can be dangerous. If D.J. Humphries lives up to his first-round billing, Justin Pugh ends up as a good signing and Mason Cole can help out on the line as a rookie, this offense could be good.
Why They'll Go Under
None of that has to happen. Bradford could get injured and Rosen could struggle behind a bad offensive line. Johnson could struggle to find his form after returning from injury. Fitz won't get frustrated but he might suffer from Ryan Lindley-fueled PTSD if he has to play with multiple quarterbacks throwing from a collapsed pocket again. The transition to Wilks' defense should be smooth, given his success with the Panthers, but it can't possibly be guaranteed that this team ends up being good on defense just because they were good last year and the new guy is good too. Changing systems is difficult and the lack of practice time afforded by the newest CBA makes transition tough. Coming out of the gates cold would be devastating, because a bad start might make it too hard to actually hit the number.
It's just too low, even in a tough division. People are over-inflating the 49ers, giving the Rams too much credit and not worried enough about the Seahawks. Arizona's dealing with a lot of change this offseason and things could go south for sure, but they're a better team than Vegas is giving them credit for at this particular number. We'll probably know by the bye if this was a good call.
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