The Cardinals awoke from their sleepy bye on Monday only to be greeted by this blissful bit of information: They’re listed as 17-point underdogs against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nice way to start your work week, isn’t it?
“I wasn’t aware of that,” veteran defensive tackle Corey Peters said, rolling his eyes.
That 17-point pronouncement officially marks the largest opening spread for any game this NFL season. Considering the way both teams have played this season, the Cardinals (2-6) will probably consider themselves lucky if they only lose to the Chiefs (8-1) by 17 points on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
‘Nobody’s picking us to win this game’
“The only opinion I’m concerned with are the men in this room and the coaching staff and our front office,” Peters said. “I know nobody’s picking us to win this game and that’s fine. The reality is, the 11 guys on the field are going to determine the outcome.
“But the Cardinals, plus 17? I’m taking that all day, man.”
Prior to this week, the biggest point spread of the year came back in Week 3 when the Vikings were favored by 16½ points against the Bills. If Peters and the Cardinals are searching for any motivating inspiration, the Bills actually won that game. And they beat the Vikings rather convincingly, 27-6.
“It’s the NFL. That’s another thing,” Peters said. “This isn’t college football. The talent disparity isn’t much different from best team in the league to whoever you perceive to be the worst team in the league. So when you get to talking about who’s going to win games, it’s really about who shows up and who comes to play.”
The Chiefs, though, look to be an insurmountable conquest for the Cardinals, who might as well try to scale Mt. Everest barefoot and without any Sherpa. Kansas City leads the league in scoring with a stratospheric 36.3 points per game. Arizona, meanwhile, ranks second-to-last with 13.8.
Not only that, but in just his second season, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes already has 29 touchdown passes and has thrown for 3,185 yards, the most by any NFL QB through 10 games since 1950. Two of his primary targets, wide receiver Tyreek Hill (774, seven) and tight end Travis Kelce (741, six), each rank in the top 10 in both receiving yards and touchdown receptions. Running back Kareem Hunt ranks third with 683 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Mahomes said after Sunday’s 37-21 victory over the Browns, which marked his eighth consecutive game with at least 300 or more passing yards.
Kansas City’s only defeat was a 43-40 Week 6 loss on the road to the Patriots.
“Dynamic in every area, particularly on the offensive side of the ball,” Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said of the Chiefs. “Mahomes is playing outstanding. He’s an MVP-caliber player right now with all the weapons around him. Again, it’s just about trying to eliminate the big plays and that’s what they’re known for thus far this year is just creating big plays over the top. We’ve got to try to eliminate that.”
Can Cardinals exploit Chiefs’ defense?
If there’s any possible silver lining for the Cardinals, it’s that no team is allowing more yards per game (447.8) than the Chiefs. The only problem there, of course, is the Cardinals haven’t come anywhere close to showing they can crank out that type of yardage. They’re last in the league in total offense (233.3), last in rushing yards per game (67.5) and second-to-last in passing yards per game (165.8).
Besides, even if Arizona suddenly were to discover an offensive jolt for the first real time this season, Kansas City would still probably score more points.
“They’re 8-1,” Cardinals guard Justin Pugh said. “I don’t care how many yards they’re allowing per game.”
The key to slowing down the Chiefs, if that’s even a possibility, is by being aware and ready to defend their onslaught of misdirection plays and all they do when running players in and out of motion situations.
“You’ve got to know your job, you’ve got to know everything that they will throw at you,” Cardinals safety Tre Boston said. “They’re a misdirection team and they do like to get guys moving. … The biggest thing is slow it down, allow your mind to slow down. Don’t allow them to get you flustered by what they do in those (play) actions. Know what they’re trying to get off of those actions and what they can do off of those motions.
“I think as a defense, if you’re able to slow it down, you’re able to really read what’s going on.”
The reality is that after the Cardinals play the Chiefs, most people are probably going to read that the Cardinals got blown out. This game could be over after the first quarter. Some are likely saying it’s over already.
But hey, the Bills beat the Vikings. David beat Goliath, too. Imagine what it might be like if the Cardinals, the 17-point underdogs, stunned the Chiefs at home.
“Oh man, it would be big,” Peters said. “Especially considering where we are in the season, just to kind of get the second of the season started off the right way. It could be a huge springboard for us. We’re preparing to win and we’re going to go up there and see what happens.”