Timely return of superstars could be all the Cardinals need

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins /

The Arizona Cardinals will get right back in the Super Bowl conversation if J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins return for the playoffs.

Over the past week, just about every NFL analyst who was riding on the bandwagon of the Arizona Cardinals has jumped off. A week 14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams was one thing, but last Sunday’s embarrassment against the Detroit Lions was pretty much unforgivable.

Due to the fact that injuries are such a normal occurrence in professional football, the critics seem to be overlooking what the Cards are dealing with at the present time. Every club endures losses, but Arizona is currently taking the field without the services of their two best players.

Back in October, the Cardinals were informed that the great J.J. Watt would likely be sidelined for the remainder of the current campaign. The defensive end had suffered a separated shoulder, and he had torn his rotator cuff, bicep, and labrum as well.

If that wasn’t enough of a dagger for the Redbirds, the next bit of unfortunate news would come from the offensive side of the ball. DeAndre Hopkins, a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, tore the MCL in his knee on December 13 and would miss at least the final four matchups of the regular season.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the Arizona Cardinals

This past week, Watt addressed his rehab process on a YouTube show called “Maanav’s Sports Talk”. To the delight of Cardinals fans, the 32-year-old sounded incredibly optimistic when speaking about a possible return this year.

"“It’s going much better than we could’ve hoped or expected for it to go at this time. I’m feeling really good. I’m doing a lot of stuff to try and push it as hard as I can to smartly and safely get back as fast as I can.”"

A return by Watt in time for the postseason would be a tremendous help for a floundering Arizona defensive unit. The squad’s run defense, in particular, has been negatively affected by Watt’s absence. Last weekend, the Cards’ weakened front wall allowed someone named Chris Reynolds to rush for 112 yards during Detroit’s 30-12 triumph.

The Cardinals offense, without Hopkins’ presence on the field, also seemed discombobulated against the Lions. Suddenly, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, and Zach Ertz didn’t appear to be getting open as easy without Hopkins commanding a bevy of double-teams. Quarterback Kyler Murray also struggled without his number-one target, and Arizona didn’t even get into the end zone until there was 4:40 left in the contest.

The light at the end of the tunnel for “Big Red” is that both Watt and Hopkins could be back at some time during the playoffs. Such an occurrence would provide an enormous lift for the Cards on both sides of the ball. The “Red Sea” can only hope for the timely return of the organization’s dynamic duo.

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