The Arizona Cardinals put themselves on the map in more ways than one last season. From the “Hail Murray” to some clutch wins, Arizona became sneaky underdogs to make a push late in the season. All of the hype rapidly declined as the season ended, though, and Arizona finished with a disappointing 8-8 record.
The schedule for the 2021 season has just been released, and now, Arizona fans have begun looking at what their squad can be capable of. The NFL has added another game to this upcoming season, so teams will play a total of 17 regular-season games. After some big additions and a few key departures, the Cardinals will need to rise up this season. Below, I will be breaking down each game of the regular season and give some insight into what their record can be at the end of the season.
Week 1 – @ Titans
The Tennessee Titans have been a rollercoaster team over the past few seasons, but two things have remained constant: Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Defeating a team with one of the top running backs in the league is never an easy feat, but the new addition of star DE JJ Watt should allow the Cardinals to hold Henry to an average game. Stopping the run could force Tannehill to turn to the air, and the loss of Patrick Peterson in the offseason could prove fatal. I think Arizona starts the season with a loss on the road in a close game.
Predicted record after game: (0-1)
Week 2 – vs. Vikings
Arizona will have the extremely daunting task of stopping 2 of the greatest running backs in the league in back-to-back weeks. JJ Watt and Chandler Jones have their work cut out for them, but Minnesota’s Receiving Core is not as tough as Tennessee’s. Malcolm Butler can cover anyone on the Vikings with success, and I believe the secondary will give Kirk Cousins trouble. On the offensive end, Kyler Murray has 3 great receivers to throw to this season. Even if Patrick Peterson locks up Deandre Hopkins in a revenge game, AJ Green or Christian Kirk can get the job done. Sophomore running back Eno Benjamin and breakout star Chase Edmunds will provide a spark on the ground and lead Arizona to their first win of the season.
Predicted record after game: (1-1)
Week 3 – @ Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished at the bottom of the league last season. After drafting Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, the Jags are hoping to make some improvements this season. Despite the opposition getting a potential franchise quarterback, I still believe Arizona can pull out a victory. The season will still be very young at the time of this game, so Lawrence will not be fully comfortable in the offense yet.
Predicted record after game: (2-1)
Week 4 – @ Rams
Arizona will have their first divisional game of the season on the road in Los Angeles. The Rams are hoping to return to their former dominance after acquiring Matthew Stafford via a trade with the Detroit Lions. No matter what the situation is, divisional games are always tough. I think Arizona will end up dropping this game on the road early in the season.
Predicted record after game: (2-2)
Week 5 – vs. 49ers
Arizona faces divisional opponents two weeks in a row early in the season. However, a floundering 49ers team with no clear-cut quarterback will be significantly easier to defeat than Sean McVay and the Rams. I think the Cardinals will get a much-needed road win against a division rival in Week 5.
Predicted record after game: (3-2)
Week 6 – @ Browns
Cleveland is a team that seems to be on the way up. With a defensive line anchored by Myles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney, the pressure will be on Kyler Murray throughout the game. The young running core will likely struggle to get anything going and Kyler will probably end up scrambling for the majority of the game. I think Arizona will end up losing this game to a playoff-contending team.
Predicted record after game: (3-3)
Week 7 – vs. Texans
The game at home against Houston will likely be one of the easiest games Arizona will have this season. The Texans have been notoriously bad these past few seasons and franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson is in a lot of hot water. This will likely be one of the heartiest wins the Cardinals will have all year assuming they do not fall into the trap of playing down to the competition.
Predicted record after game: (4-3)
Week 8 – vs. Packers
With question marks surrounding many areas of the Packers franchise still, I think it is entirely possible that Green Bay traded some big names and enters a rebuild surrounding Jordan Love. With that being said, I believe the Cardinals should be able to pull out a victory at home against a possible Rodgers-less Packers team.
Predicted record after game: (5-3)
Week 9 – @ 49ers
San Francisco is likely the one opponent I can realistically see Arizona sweeping this season. Arguably the weakest team in the division, the 49ers will need to play significantly better than expectations in order to beat the Cardinals this season. Although divisional matchups are always tough, I think the Cardinals will get an early series sweep against San Francisco and get rolling on a nice winning streak.
Predicted record after game: (6-3)
Week 10 – vs. Panthers
Even though Carolina was able to acquire Sam Darnold in the offseason, there are still a lot of factors that remain up in the air for this young franchise. If Christian McCaffery is able to remain healthy this deep into the season, he can be a game-changer for the Panthers. However, I think this game is one that will likely go in favor of the home team. If this game were being played in Carolina, I may be inclined to say differently, but I think Arizona will extend their winning streak to 4 following Week 10.
Predicted record after game: (7-3)
Week 11 – @ Seahawks
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and such is the case for the Cardinals. I see Seattle as a team that the Cards will split the season series with, but there is also potential that they lose both to Russell Wilson and the ‘Hawks. Since this game will be on the road, I think Arizona’s winning streak will be put to a close in Seattle.
Predicted record after game: (7-4)
Week 12 – BYE WEEK
Week 13 – @ Bears
Arizona will be coming off of a bye week and heading straight to Chicago fully rested. However, Chicago was able to get a steal in Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Fields is the type of player that can be plugged into a starting role and make an immediate impact. Since this game will be played at the beginning of December in Chicago, weather is likely to play a factor in the outcome. I am more inclined in this instance to go with the team that is used to the cold, which is the Chicago Bears. I believe Fields can be a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year winner, and if he lives up to that hype then Arizona’s secondary will have trouble containing him.
Predicted record after game: (7-5)
Week 14 – vs. Rams
Following a short two-game road trip, the Red Sea will be out in full force for a matchup with their division rivals. Los Angeles will be coming to town, and I think Arizona will be eager to get a win following a loss to them earlier in the season. Kyler Murray has the chance to lead his team to a divisional win at home, and I think he will take that opportunity.
Predicted record after game: (8-5)
Week 15 – @ Lions
Detroit is always a team that enters the season with high expectations and leaves severely disappointed. I believe this season will be no different for the Lions, and Arizona will be able to go in and grab a win. As the season nears an end, the Cardinals will be searching for a playoff spot. Every season, Arizona seems to find themselves chasing Seattle, and they will be hungry to claim the top spot this time.
Predicted record after game: (9-5)
Week 16 – vs. Colts
With Phillip Rivers calling it a career, the Colts had a huge hole to fill in the quarterback position. They decided to take a risk in acquiring Carson Wentz, and based on what I have seen from him recently I do not believe that he will offer much of a boost. Arizona has the potential to pick up a relatively easy victory here, and I think they take it.
Predicted record after game: (10-5)
Week 17 – @ Cowboys
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot are never names a defense wants to see on the other team. Add Ceedee Lamb and Amari Cooper to that list and it can be a nightmare for any defense to hold their own. However, Dallas’s offense will need to do a lot of heavy lifting throughout the season to account for their significantly weaker defense. By Week 17, the odds of players being gassed is high, so I think the Cardinals will be able to pull out a victory in Dallas.
Predicted record after game: (11-5)
Week 18 – vs. Seahawks
As mentioned earlier in this article, Seattle is the rival most likely to sweep Arizona. With this being the last game of the season, a lot can be riding on this matchup, including playoff positioning. I think since this game will be in Arizona, the Cardinals will be able to squeak out a tight win, but I can really see this game going either way. One thing is for sure: it is always fun when these 2 teams meet.
Predicted record after game: (12-5)
Anything can happen during the course of an NFL season. Injuries, surprise performances, and roster moves can all play a part in a team’s success or failure during a season. Excluding those uncontrollable factors affecting the cardinals, I think Arizona has the potential to finish 12-5 and make a deep playoff run. I do not believe the Cardinals have what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl quite yet, but if they keep trending the way they are then it will not be long before they are there.