NFL 2021 Arizona Cardinals: Schedule, Team News, Predictions, Key Games
|The Arizona Cardinals|
Arizona Cardinals' 2021 schedule: First half could make or break season.
The 2021 season will be the Arizona Cardinals' upcoming 102nd season in the National Football League.
Arizona Cardinals Schedule in 2021 NFL
The Arizona Cardinals' 2021 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday, according to ESPNBlog.
The Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (7:10 p.m. ET).
The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played January 9, 2022. The playoffs begin January 15, 2022 and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.
Here's what in store for the Cardinals:
Sept. 12: at Tennessee
Sept. 19: vs. Minnesota
Sept. 26: at Jacksonville
Oct. 3: at L.A. Rams
Oct. 10: vs. San Francisco
Oct. 17: at Cleveland
Oct. 24: vs. Houston
Oct. 28: vs. Green Bay (TNF)
Nov. 7: at San Francisco
Nov. 14: vs. Carolina
Nov. 21: at Seattle
Nov. 28: Bye
Dec. 5: vs. Chicago
Dec. 13: vs. L.A. Rams (MNF)
Dec. 19: at Detroit
Dec. 25: vs. Indianapolis
Jan. 2: at Dallas
Jan. 9: vs. Seattle
Strength of schedule: T-13th, .507
Life in the NFC West is difficult.
The Cardinals should have some lofty expectations with Kyler Murray entering his third year in the league, but adding wins in the league's deepest division is easier said than done.
The Cards have done what they can to give themselves the best opportunity, though. They made a lot of aggressive moves in the offseason, bringing in aging veterans in J.J. Watt, A.J. Green, Rodney Hudson and Malcolm Butler.
However, early all of them are merely replacing a departing player. A.J. Green is replacing Larry Fitzgerald, Malcolm Butler walks into Patrick Peterson's role and J.J. Watt joins the defensive front where they lost Haason Reddick.
The draft brought another intriguing, versatile defender in Zaven Collins to pair with Isaiah Simmons. Rondale Moore adds versatility to the offense as well.
The Cardinals got better and are an above-average team. That said, Kyler Murray will have to be special for them to elevate their standing in the rugged NFC West, according to Bleacherreport.
The Cardinals should win at least seven games, but that could turn into 10 or more if the offense is steady and the defense plays like it should with all the talent it has on paper. Optimism might be hard to come by after they lost six of their final nine regular-season games last season, according to ESPN.
Will the Cardinals have another nose dive like they did in 2020? And, if they do, when will it happen? Do they start slow and finish fast or vice-versa like last season? Between cross-country trips and important games sprinkled in between winnable games, there isn't a part of the Cardinals schedule that would allow them to slide. They do have three of their final five at home, but as was the case last season against the 49ers in Week 16, that doesn't matter anymore for this franchise. It's not an easy schedule when coach Kliff Kingsbury's job could be on the line.
We now know when the Arizona Cardinals will be playing all their football games for the 2021 season.
With that, there are some key stretches of the season that can start to develop with a closer look at the games.
Here are a few by spotlighting the five games that stand out the most:
Week 2 — vs. Minnesota Vikings
Treat this as a joint pick of sorts with the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3.
The Tennessee Titans on the road is a very good challenge to start the year in Week 1, so the Cardinals will either enter this matchup looking to go 2-0 or avoid 0-2.
Assuming Arizona handles No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence the week after, the gauntlet really starts in the next three weeks with the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns. All three of those teams could win double-digit games, so the Cardinals taking care of business in the first three weeks will be crucial.
Week 8 — vs. Green Bay Packers (Thursday Night Football)
Aaron Rodgers being a member of the Packers drastically changes the outlook for this game. But again, let’s focus on the road getting there. After that brutal three-game stretch in Weeks 4-6, the Cardinals get a layup in the Houston Texans.
Depending on how good or bad that goes will add a certain amount of extra stakes to this matchup. 2-5? Must-win game. 4-3? Gotta try and keep up in the NFC West.
Week 9 — at San Francisco 49ers
Speaking of that division stuff, the Cardinals coming off a Thursday game will have extra time to prepare for the 49ers.
Now, if Rodgers stays on the Packers, you can look at Thursday as a tough break in getting Rodgers on a short week. But if he’s gone, that’s a best-case scenario. As is getting a divisional opponent with the extended week to get ready.
With the Cardinals being the underdog in the NFC West, they’ll have to do some of the hard work themselves to make up ground, especially if they still haven’t beaten Sean McVay yet at this point.
Week 11 — at Seattle Seahawks
Remember back in Week 13 of the 2009 season when a 10-1 Minnesota Vikings squad led by Brett Favre came to town for a primetime showdown against the 7-4 Cardinals? A solid chance for Arizona to prove if they are a contender?
Those litmus test games in the back-half of the schedule are always interesting, and by this point in Week 11 against Seattle, we will know if the Cardinals really have a decent shot to make the playoffs. Not quite to the level of 2009 and going for a Super Bowl, but this season’s version of that.
To go back to previous observations, this is another opportunity to do some first-hand damage on divisional opposition. Gotta take advantage.
Week 16 — vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Cardinals could very well be in a situation where they need to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive, or will lose some control of those hopes with a loss.
They wrap with Dallas and Seattle after this matchup with the Colts, two opponents that aren’t overwhelming favorites, and perhaps Indianapolis is the best team of those three.
And if Arizona is looking to send a message that it’s for real, a whole lot of people will be watching on Christmas, reported by Arizonasports.
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