Arizona Cardinals vs Chiefs: Week 1 (Analyzing Kansas City)

Aug 20, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) huddles teammates during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 20, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) huddles teammates during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The Arizona Cardinals will face one of the league’s toughest teams in the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday. Let’s break down the opponent. 

The Arizona Cardinals must keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs. With Byron Murphy dealing with an illness, the Cardinals could be down their top three corners heading into this one, and they will rely on an inexperienced trio that would include Marco Wilson, Christian Matthew, and Javelin Guidry.

So how do the Cardinals, with so many injuries, stack up to the formidable Chiefs? Let’s dive deeper into the opponents and explore ways the Cardinals can counter one of the NFL’s best.

Analyzing the Arizona Cardinals Week 1 opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs – The Passing Game

We all know what quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce can do. And luckily for the Cardinals, there are ways to stop one of the NFL’s most dynamic duos. By blitzing Mahomes from the edge and simultaneously dropping more defenders into coverage, the Cardinals can confuse the All-Pro quarterback.

Further, look for the inside linebackers in Isiah Simmons and Zaven Collins to keep an eye on Kelce. With help from Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson from safety, placing two defenders on the tight end can at least slow his production.

Earlier in the week, I talked about Byron Murphy vs. JuJu Smith Schuster as a key matchup for this one. Now that Murphy’s status is up in the air, Marco Wilson will most likely take over CB1 duties if Murphy can’t go. By putting another safety over Smith-Schuster, it will leave three lesser experienced and productive targets for the Cardinals.

Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling could create trouble. But this is where pressure from the edge plus dropping multiple linebackers and corners into coverage comes in. There is a discrepancy in the experience factor, but overall, such a strategy will give the Cardinals a better chance in this one.

The Running Game

The Arizona Cardinals lacked efficacy in stopping the run last season and that cannot happen against the Chiefs. This is where Simmons and Collins must step up and show that they are a fast-rising duo at inside linebacker. They need to converge, stuff Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ronald Jones, and perhaps Jerick McKinnon, and stop the rushing attack before it even gets started.

Edwards-Helaire has not lived to expectations, but he shows flashes at times. Ditto for Jones, who notched 978 yards and 5.1 yards per carry just two seasons ago before taking an RB2 role in Tampa in 2021. McKinnon is one of the league’s more viable RB3s.

Passing Defense

Last season, the Chiefs defense had a tough time getting it together, and with some roster turnover, look for the defense once again to take time to mesh, both the rushing and passing defenses. Despite a banged up receiving unit that will miss Rondale Moore and potentially tight end Zach Ertz on top of DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension, the Cardinals can still take advantage of the Chiefs passing defense.

With just 31 total sacks in 2021 (29th in the NFL), a mobile quarterback like Kyler Murray can be a nightmare for this Chiefs team. And while the Chiefs defense finished third in the NFL in hurries (13.0%), they were rarely quick enough to get to the quarterback.

Even without some top targets, the Cardinals still have Marquise Brown, A.J. Green, and camp revelations Greg Dortch and Andy Isabella to lead the charge on Sunday. And that can still spell trouble for the Chiefs.

Rushing Defense

Like the Cardinals, the Chiefs also did not fare so hotly in rushing defense. However, Nick Bolton is one player to worry about. He finished his rookie season with 112 tackles, including 11 for a loss. His presence in the middle could force the Cardinals to take it outside with their committee of backs that includes James Conner, Darrel Williams, and Eno Benjamin.

With a solid committee of running backs, it could allow the Cardinals to slow the game down and keep the ball in their possession longer if they can figure out how to counter Bolton. There are also two unknowns projected to start at linebacker in Willie Gay Jr. and Leo Chenal.

If the offensive line can get a good push on a defensive front  that includes Pro Bowl talents like Frank Clark, Derrick Nnadi, and Chris Jones, and that will be no simple task, the Cardinals may fare well in ball control.

Overall, the Chiefs suffered with an ultra-weak rushing defense that allowed 4.8 yards per carry (31st in the NFL) in 2021. But there is no shortage of talent here. The Cardinals line needs a good push to counteract what is a talented Chiefs defensive line and they need to keep Bolton from converging.


Analyzing the opponent and the Cardinals themselves, I am looking for a higher-scoring game and a potential quarterback duel between Mahomes and Murray. While the Arizona Cardinals are depleted on defense, a solid game plan to slow down Kansas City’s star players will make this a closer affair.

On offense, Kyler Murray can take advantage of a Chiefs defense that did not get to the quarterback often in 2021. And though they finished third in quarterback hurries, Murray’s ability to extend the play will negate that.

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The Chiefs also have potential to possess a strong rushing defense. Yet despite the talent that’s there, it took that defense a while to get acclimated in 2021. A repeat in 2022 could pay dividends for the Cardinals rushing attack.

(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)