Arizona Cardinals exit their holiday bye week as Super Bowl favorites

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The turkey was a little more tender, the naps a little deeper and the beer a little colder on Thanksgiving for the Arizona Cardinals. And there was certainly plenty to be thankful for.

The Cardinals got to their bye last week by surviving a November without Kyler Murray, their Pro Bowl quarterback who missed the last three games with a sprained left ankle, and DeAndre Hopkins, their WR1. The Cardinals went 2-1 without their top offensive players and exit the holiday break with an NFL-best 9-2 record.

"That's huge," Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "Not having your quarterback for three weeks and winning two out of three, especially divisional games, that's huge for your team.

"Most teams lose their quarterback and they probably lose all three."

It secured Arizona's first winning season since 2015 and put them in a position to win their first division title since that same year.

They're projected to finish the season 13-4, according to the ESPN NFL Football Power Index, with their remaining strength of schedule currently ranked 19th. The FPI also has Arizona ranked as the favorites to win Super Bowl LVI with an 18.3% confidence rating.

Beyond setting them up for a run at the NFC's No. 1 seed and a first-round playoff bye, the Cardinals' 2-1 record during the absence of Murray and Hopkins did some things that can't be measured by analytics.

"It was a good test for our team to [see] how we respond to adversity, going out there not having those such huge pieces," left tackle D.J. Humphries said. "They're not, like, role players. Those are cornerstones of our team that we've been missing and being able to still [go] out there and go get it done and that was a huge confidence booster for our team across the board."

Winning two divisional games on the road with Colt McCoy at quarterback gave Arizona the confidence that if Murray, who's expected back to face the Chicago Bears on Sunday (10 a.m. ET, Fox), were to go down in the playoffs, the Cardinals could still compete, Joseph said.

It also gave showed what kind of depth the Cardinals have, said outside linebacker Chandler Jones.

Still, after Arizona's win over the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 21, coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted he was flat out tired and said the bye was coming at a "good time" to let Arizona rejuvenate and recharge. The week off gave Arizona a chance to self scout, McCoy said. And, mostly, get healthy.

However, linebacker Jordan Hicks would've preferred to keep playing. He didn't think the Cardinals needed the bye.

"I don't necessarily think so," Hicks said. "The way we're playing and how this locker room feels right now, obviously it'll be nice to be healthy and get guys back and but you roll the ball out there and we go out there, we're ready to go.

"And that's the mentality of this team. It doesn't matter who we're playing, doesn't matter when we're playing, it's about us. It's always about us."

From here on out, all of the Cardinals' games will be important.

"The more you win, the bigger the games get," tight end Zach Ertz said. "And I've been in this league a long time and [if] you're playing meaningful games at the end of November, December, January, that's what it's really about."