TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)DeAndre Hopkins has provided the boost the offense needed, J.J. Watt is having productive games on defense, and quarterback Kyler Murray continues to put up big numbers.

Yet the Arizona Cardinals are still a mediocre football team.

At this point, they’re running out of chances to turn it around.

The Cardinals (3-5) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 34-26 on Sunday and have fallen to the basement of the NFC West. They’ll have three games in a row against division opponents starting with Seattle this weekend.

One silver lining for the Cardinals is that the division is still tightly bunched: The Cardinals are just two games behind the Seahawks (5-3) for first place.

”Obviously, not a lot of wiggle room left, with three division games and where we’re at record-wise,” Kingsbury said. ”If you are able to win all three, there’s an opportunity to be right there and have a piece of first place at the end of this deal. Our guys understand that after starting the way we did, that’s a great carrot out in front of you.”

That carrot won’t exist for long if the Cardinals can’t figure out a way to be more efficient, particularly on offense. They’ve been plagued all season by small mistakes such as false starts, bad snaps and delay of game penalties. They also had some big mistakes against the Vikings, including three turnovers.

Hopkins caught 12 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown Sunday, providing a second straight stellar performance since returning from a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

”We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and practice better,” Hopkins said after the game. ”You guys see that we are right there and not getting blown out. This was one of the best teams in the NFL, and we had a chance to win today.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Hopkins has provided the lift Arizona needs in its receiver room. Simply put, there’s not many people who can snatch one-handed touchdowns out of the air and make it look normal.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The Cardinals have tried to alleviate some of their problems with pre-snap penalties by getting in a huddle before plays, which is a change from Kingsbury’s usual preference to play a hurry-up, no-huddle style. That switch has helped in some ways, but hurt in others. On Sunday, the Cardinals were sometimes in a time crunch because it was taking them too long to huddle, call the play and get to the line of scrimmage.

STOCK UP

Watt is on pace to have about 10 sacks, which would be his best mark since 2018. The five-time All-Pro had two sacks against the Vikings and has managed to avoid the major injuries that plagued him the last several seasons.

STOCK DOWN

It was about one year ago that Kingsbury was the toast of the NFL. The Cardinals looked like a Super Bowl contender with a 10-2 record to start the season.

The fourth-year coach hasn’t been able to push the right buttons since that point, losing 10 of the past 14 games. His seat is getting warm in a hurry, with the franchise expecting results after signing Murray to a $230.5 million long-term deal just before training camp.

INJURIES

Kingsbury said C Rodney Hudson (knee) is probably out at least one more week. The Cardinals have a 1-3 record with Hudson on the sidelines. Several other starters missed Sunday’s game, including G Max Garcia (shoulder), LT D.J. Humphries (back), OLB Dennis Gardeck (ankle), RB James Conner (ribs).

KEY NUMBER

262 – The number of yards receiving for Hopkins. He has played just two games this season, but is already the team’s third-leading receiver.

NEXT STEPS

The Cardinals have three crucial games in a row against the Seahawks, Rams and 49ers. They get Seattle at home Sunday.

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