The Arizona Cardinals will be kicking off their 2023 season in roughly a day and a half from the time of this writing. And while they’re not favored to win, anything can happen across a three-hour contest to shift the game toward the underdog’s favor.
And we already saw one underdog pull off an upset earlier in the week against the defending Super Bowl Champions. So forgive me when I say with confidence that I refuse to count out the Cardinals unless the final score shows me otherwise when the clock hits zero this Sunday.
One reason is that there are two players the Washington Commanders may not anticipate addressing, with their attention likely on Budda Baker, James Conner, and Zaven Collins, among others. These players, one on offense and one on defense, are well-known to Cardinals fans and could be dark horses in increasing their odds to win this week.
2 dark horse Arizona Cardinals who could increase chances in Week 1
1 - Keaontay Ingram, RB
In 2022, Keaontay Ingram played like a running back who the Cards would have been happy to cut loose and replace given the new regime in town. But Ingram not only solidified his spot as the RB2 this year, he looked like one of the team’s most improved players in the preseason.
Ingram looked every bit the battering ram that James Conner is known for, and he showed us that the Cards can at least get away with using a balanced two-back approach this year. And that’s good news for Conner, who has missed six games and has been nicked up quite a bit since he arrived in the desert.
If Ingram can make the most of his carries in this game, the Cards will more effectively wear down a stingy Commanders defense. Ingram may not have played much so far in his NFL career, but quite a few fanbases could know his name by the time this one’s over.
2 - Marco Wilson, CB
Last season, Marco Wilson made a name for himself in coverage, picking off three passes and returning one to the house for a pick-six. But Wilson is also sneaky on corner blitzes, and against a young quarterback like Sam Howell, don’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Nick Rallis sends Wilson on a few of them on Sunday afternoon.
Wilson had a quarterback knockdown last season, along with a hurry on eight total blitzes. As an inexperienced quarterback, Howell could get caught holding onto the ball and going through his progressions a split-second too long, and Wilson can play a huge part in rattling him all game in both the backfield and in the secondary.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)