The Cardinals will begin the regular season with a matchup in Tennessee, the 12th meeting between the franchises. The trip to Tennessee will be the team's first Week One road game against an AFC opponent in 24 years, and the second time in the last 16 years the team will open a season on the road against a non-division opponent. The Cardinals hold a 7-4 series lead over the Titans, having won two straight and three of the last four contests.
The expectations are high for the Cards, and so too are they for the five players in this week's spotlight:
Since GM Steve Keim selected Murray No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL draft, the dual-threat quarterback has become one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch. Murray earned his first Pro Bowl nod last year, becoming the first player to have at least 3,500 passing yards and at least 750 rushing yards in the same season. Murray also ranked in the top-15 among quarterbacks in completion percentage (11th), yards (13th), and touchdowns (12th). The organization hopes Murray will take another step in his progression towards becoming an MVP-caliber level signal-caller, against a Titans' unit that ranked 28th in total defense and 29th in pass defense last season.
*DeAndre Hopkins *
DeAndre Hopkins likes to regard himself as the NFL's best wideout, and judging by his level of production, it's tough to argue. A five-time All-Pro selection, Hopkins hauled in a franchise-record 115 receptions in 2020, which tied for second in the NFL last season. Hopkins accumulated seven 100-yard games, 75 catches resulting in a first down, and 1,407 receiving yards. The latter total ranked third in the NFL behind Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Hopkins should benefit with the additions of A.J. Green and Rondale Moore, who hopefully will help pull attention away from Hopkins.
After suffering a torn biceps five weeks into the 2020 season in New York, Jones' year was over. Now, the three-time Pro Bowler is back and fully healthy. Jones, who leads the NFL in sacks (97) since entering the league in 2012 despite his abbreviated 2020 -- now has another elite edge rusher alongside him in veteran J.J. Watt. The franchise's all-time sack leader also will be motivated in his desire for a contract extension. In fantastic shape, many analysts have Jones as a potential Comeback Player of the Year.
The Cardinals won the Watt sweepstakes back in March seeking leadership and production. Now they'll see what Watt can provide. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year and the only player in NFL history with multiple seasons of 20 or more sacks did deal with a problem hamstring in training camp. But he's healthy now, and did play all 16 games with more than 1,000 snaps last season. Opposing quarterbacks could be in for a long day if Watt can stay healthy alongside Jones. Watt has also had a lot of success against the Titans throughout his career, with 18 career sacks.
The Cardinals have been pleasantly surprised by Wilson, whom the team selected in the fourth round of the draft. During training camp and the preseason, the rookie has impressed. At one point, Wilson even accumulated a 50% forced incompletion rate, according to Pro Football Focus. With unexpected news of Malcolm Butler's recent retirement, Wilson will have the opportunity to play significant snaps alongside veteran cornerbacks Byron Murphy and Robert Alford. It'll be an early test with Titans Pro Bowl receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown.
The five Cardinals to watch in Tennessee on Sunday: Chandler Jones, Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt and Marco Wilson.