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To the pleasure of all Arizona Cardinals fans, both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins returned to practice on Wednesday ahead of this Sunday’s road game against the Chicago Bears. This was the first time that both franchise players were actively participating in a practice since late October.
Murray, who did see some work two weeks ago before the team’s bye, appears to be finally nearing a return after missing three games due to a nagging ankle injury suffered against the Green Bay Packers. The Cardinals, led by backup quarterback Colt McCoy, managed to go 2-1 during that Murray-less stretch in November. Prior to his absence, the third-year signal caller out of Oklahoma was off to a historic pace that would have seen him eclipse many career highs for both passing yards and passing touchdowns.
So with a likely return en route for the former first overall pick, can Kyler Murray officially re-enter the race for league MVP starting Sunday?
The likeliness of that happening will be predicated on Murray’s ability to quickly make up ground both in the victory category along with some robust statistics. The good news is, unlike in years prior, no singular candidate has solidified themselves ahead of the pack for MVP as we enter the homestretch of the season. The current favorite, via DraftKings, is Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady at +350 followed by Buffalo’s Josh Allen at +450 and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers at +600.
Kyler Murray, for reference, has fallen into fifth place at +1200 after previously being the betting favorite prior to his injury.
What is working in Murray’s favor is the fact that the Cardinals remain atop the NFC standings 11 weeks into the season. Historically the MVP is chosen from a list of difference-makers from the league’s top teams, which is likely to keep Murray as a viable candidate leading into December football. If the Cardinals can sustain their hold on the top seed in the conference, that will undoubtedly give Murray a leg up when voting commences before the start of the playoffs.
In the meantime, Kyler Murray will need to get busy making up for lost time against the slew of underwhelming defenses that remain on the Cardinals’ schedule. Upcoming matchups against the Bears and the Detroit Lions represent opportunities for Murray to toss up crooked numbers in both passing and rushing touchdowns. He’ll also have opportunities to shine on the national stage, with the Cardinals hosting both the LA Rams and the Indianapolis Colts in the coming weeks at home.
Then there’s a certain Week 17 matchup against the Cowboys, in Dallas, that could very well be flexed into what would be the team’s first Sunday Night Football appearance of the season. A marquee victory back in his home state of Texas, in a stadium in which Murray remains unbeaten, would do wonders for the Bedford native’s MVP hopes.
On the flip side, Murray did suffer his only loss to date at home against the aforementioned Aaron Rodgers. Should the Packer great continue to rack up both wins and gaudy statistics, it could leave voters with an easy decision when considering Rodgers for his second consecutive league MVP. He, along with Brady, remain strong contenders to come home with the honors.
So while many fans are disappointed that Kyler Murray’s injury may have cost him a chance at earning the organization’s first Most Valuable Player award, it’s still too early in the process to discount him entirely. Then again, if you ask Murray of his preference, he will undoubtedly prefer to be hosting a different trophy come Feb. 13, 2022.
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