- Before we get to the game by game picks, here are a few snap judgements for the Cardinals just released schedule:
Great bye week placement. An early season bye in the first 18 week schedule in NFL history would be BRUTAL. Cardinals get their Thursday Night mini bye in Week 8 and their full blown bye in Week 12.
- Zero Sunday Night Football games is a direct result of the Cardinals blowing their playoff chances down the stretch in 2020. They play Christmas night game, a Monday nighter in mid-December and a Thursday night dog fight against the Packers in late October.
- Finishing Week 18 at home is nice.
- Their post bye week schedule is manageable, no murderer's row gauntlet as we've seen in year's past.
- Week 1 is going to tell us A LOT.
Now for the week by week:
Week 1 - @ TEN
- An early, important test for the rebuilt Cardinals defense. Physicality and pedigree make the Titans a tough Week 1 opponent. Fortunately, the game will not be decided by a Head Coach Arm Wrestling Competition.
Week 2 -vs. MIN
- Pat P doesn't have to wait long for his not anticipated homecoming. The former Cardinals star won't be the story but his successors could be as Minnesota tries to blitz the Cardinals secondary with some heavy duty firepower.
Week 3 - @ JAX
- Urban Meyer will have either quit by this game or Jacksonville could be scary. Its 50/50. The Jags defense has more to answer against Kyler Murray than the Cards do against Lawrence and Co.
Week 4 - @ LAR
- The Rams and Sean McVay have a notarized title owning Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals. I would expect that to continue this season.
Week 5 - vs. SF
- The 49ers have a better roster than the Cardinals but their QB uncertainty plays directly into the hands of the Cardinals. Stealing one of two in their early season NFC West showdowns is a must for the Cardinals.
Week 6 - @ CLE
- These two teams were joined at the hip last offseason as buzzy up and comers. Since then, they've taken divergent paths. The Browns broke through and made the playoffs while the Cardinals fizzled out in Week's 16 and 17. Then in the offseason, the Browns methodically added a few key pieces and aced many draft grades while the Cardinals made a series of win now moves and a head scratching draft. Look for those two paths to continue to diverge after this game.
Week 7 - vs HOU
- Does DeAndre Hopkins take any joy in beating down his former team? Of course he will but he'll likely feel more pity than vindication for whatever is left of his old teammates.
Week 8 - vs GB - THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- A short week after a date with Houston is ideal. Green Bay is the toughest game to project because of their ongoing Aaron Rodgers drama. If Rodgers is starting, it's a game that should tell them exactly where they are in the NFC pecking order.
Week 9 - @ SF
- Kyle Shanahan's flat brimmed hat got a little bent out of shape in an earlier loss to Arizona, I'd expect the 49ers to be well prepared to deal Kingsbury some tough medicine.
Week 10 - vs. CAR
- By week 10, either Sam Darnold will still be seeing ghosts or he'll be the ghost in the starting lineup. While the Panthers humbled the Cardinals in Charlotte last year, the Cardinals get some home cooked revenge in 2021.
Week 11 - @ SEA
- In Seattle right before the bye, the Cardinals have a chance to get above .500 or slip below and perhaps not get a chance to get back. I like their chances against a dysfunctional Seahawks team.
Week 12 - ***BYE WEEK***
Week 13 - @ CHI
- The Cardinals have an outdoor game in Chicago in December. Not ideal for a Bears team likely to still be facing offensive uncertainty for the umpteenth year in a row but also built on a bedrock of rock solid defense. A turning point game for the season.
Week 14 - vs LAR - MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- Sean McVay will save his best atomic wedgie antics for little wanna be brother Kliff Kingsbury for the primetime stage. Matthew Stafford helps cement the Rams faith in him with a sweep of the Cardinals.
Week 15 - @ DET
- WHY ARE THE LIONS ON THE SCHEDULE AGAIN?!?
Week 16 - vs. IND
- By this point of the season, there's almost a 100% chance that Carson Wentz will either be injured or most of his teammates will hate him. Its a perfect time for the Cardinals to get a much needed home win before the stretch run OR a perfect time for me to make friends with Matt Eberflus and Ed Dodds before they take over for Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury.
Week 17 - @ DAL
- Dallas could be below .500 and still fighting for a first round bye if recent history holds up in the NFC East. A fully healthy Cowboys team presents too many challenges for the Cardinals defense.
Week 18 - vs. SEA
- By this stage of the season, Seattle could very well be a smoldering dumpster fire of a team with Russell Wilson having decided to demand a trade and the rest of the time no longer concealing their antipathy for their phony leader. The Cards complete the season sweep but miss the postseason.
FINAL RESULTS: 9-8, miss the playoffs.