It isn’t often that a Week 4 game feels like a must-win, but that’s exactly where we are with the Arizona Cardinals.
Aside from a miraculous comeback win over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2, the Cardinals have not looked like a playoff team. It’s to the point where they are underdogs against the lowly Panthers this Sunday.
Carolina is not a good team. They did manage to beat the Saints last week, but it was an uninspiring effort. Their other two games are losses to the Browns and Giants.
The Cardinals are lacking star power on defense and are missing many key skill position players on offense. Perhaps some of the defensive woes can be mitigated as we approach the trade deadline, but the Cardinals must first accomplish one goal.
The Cardinals must be no worse than 3-3 when DeAndre Hopkins returns from suspension.
Around that time is the projected return of Rondale Moore, where the Cardinals offense will be complete. The receiving corps of Hopkins, Hollywood Brown, Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch is very, very promising.
A loss to Carolina, however, and the Cardinals find themselves at 1-3, with their next game against the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles. If they cannot beat the Panthers, they give no reason to inspire confidence in beating Philadelphia.
The primary concern for Cardinals fans is how much Carolina has dominated the Cards in recent memory. The Panthers have not lost to the Cardinals since 2013.
If the Cardinals can break that streak and beat the Panthers, they have some room to work with. They’ll just need to win one of their next two games (Eagles, Seahawks) and they’ll be 3-3 for the return of Hopkins.
While Hopkins isn’t going to play edge rusher or inside linebacker like the team so desperately needs, getting him back at .500 is a major boost. General Manager Steve Keim has made an impact trade before the deadline each of the past three seasons, giving reason to believe he’ll do so again.
If the Cardinals can reach .500 and get back their best wideout and add some defensive reinforcements, they could be in good shape. If not, there is little optimism for improvement.