Arizona Cardinals 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

Elyssa GutbrodContributor IApril 17, 2012

Arizona Cardinals 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

0 of 17

    We’ve known the opponents and locations of the matchups the Arizona Cardinals will face in the 2012 season for several weeks, but until now we have been missing some key information:

    What time will each game occur?

    How many games will the Cardinals play in prime time (on Sunday, Monday or Thursday night)?

    When will the bye week be?

    Will the Cardinals play on any major holidays?

    With the official release of the 2012 NFL Schedule on Tuesday evening, we can finally begin to truly assess the depth of the challenges that the Cardinals will face in the upcoming season.

    Keep clicking for key information on dates and times, as well as a preliminary breakdown of all 16 games on the Cardinals 2012 schedule.

Week 1: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

1 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, September 9 at 4:15 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: The first time the Seahawks and the Cardinals met in 2011, the Cardinals lost by three points after kicker Jay Feely missed two key field goals. The second time they met, the Cardinals won it in overtime.

    Although Seattle was more often mentioned as a Wild Card contender in 2011, the Cardinals played them close during both meetings and finished with the better record.

    Both teams will be looking to start the year off in a positive direction, particularly with a division game on the line. As division rivals, these teams have a healthy rivalry to draw on that should make this an exciting season opener.

Week 2: Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots

2 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, September 16 at 1:00 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: The New England Patriots, always a worthy opponent, will be hosting their season opener at home after playing on the road in Week 1. The atmosphere in Gillette Stadium should be electric, to say the least.

    The Patriots of 2011 brought a defense to the table that hovered near the bottom of the league in almost all statistical categories. Although they were able to cover for that weakness with a lights-out offense, Tom Brady showed glimpses of humanity against sometimes unexpected teams.

    The Cardinals, with their often-underestimated defensive efforts, could be one of those teams.

    Offensively, the Patriots will certainly have the edge in this game, but don’t expect the game to be as lopsided as it might seem on the surface.

    If the Cardinals are able to come away from their Week 1 matchup with a win and some proof that their offense is clicking better than it did in 2011, that momentum might be the edge that they need to return home victorious.

Week 3: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

3 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, September 23 at 4:05 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: The Philadelphia Eagles, last year’s supposed “Dream Team,” fell far short of their lofty expectations in 2011. The fall included a loss to the John Skelton-lead Cardinals in November that all but sealed the Eagles’ fate of missing the playoffs.

    You’d better believe the Eagles will be out for blood when the teams meet again in Week 3.

    This will be a hard-hitting, fast-paced game as the Eagles look to prove their dominance over a Cardinals team that has given them trouble the past few times they have met. The Cardinals will have very little room for sloppy offensive play if they want to have a hope of keeping up with the speedy Eagles.

Week 4: Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals

4 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, September 30 at 4:05 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: The Miami Dolphins have moved into full rebuilding mode after last year’s 6-10 finish to the season. With a new head coach, David Garrard at quarterback, and plentiful turnover on defense, it seems doubtful that the Dolphins can be true competitors in the 2012 season.

    Playing at home, the Cardinals should find themselves at a good advantage against a team that may still be learning the ropes early in the season.

Week 5: Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

5 of 17

    Date and Time: Thursday, October 4 at 8:20 ET on NFL Network

    What to Watch For: Back on the road after two weeks at home, the Cardinals will travel to St. Louis for a division rivalry game against the Rams after a short week for both teams.

    After a disappointing 2-14 record in 2011 due in part to a lingering high ankle sprain injury to Sam Bradford and injuries to wide receivers, the St. Louis Rams look to bounce back in 2012.

    The Cardinals may find themselves at somewhat of a disadvantage in this game. Traveling to a later time zone on a short week will take its toll on the team. With the majority of their offensive talent at full health, the Rams can be a big scoring threat. They will need their defense to step it up during their prime time debut.

Week 6: Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals

6 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, October 14 at 4:05 ET on CBS

    What to Watch For: The Buffalo Bills of 2011 were somewhat of an enigma. After starting the season with a strong 4-1 record, the Bills eventually fell to just 6-10.

    With home field advantage and a defensive unit that has proved that it only gets better as the season progresses on their side, the Cardinals should be able to dispatch with the Bills without too much of a problem.

    The previous three times these teams have met (1999, 2004 and 2008), each game has resulted in a blowout one way or the other. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that this game might end the same way.

Week 7: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings

7 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, October 21 at 1:00 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: Another team in the process of rebuilding, the Minnesota Vikings will host the Cardinals for the third time in three years.

    The previous three times these teams have met, the win has gone to the home team. If the Cardinals put forth the same effort they did against the 2011 Vikings team, that trend will continue.

    In order to come away victorious, the Cardinals will need to shut down Adrian Peterson and truly shine on offense by putting points on the board.

    By this point in the season, we will have a more realistic idea of whether or not this will happen. But the Cards stand in danger of falling into a slump where the Vikings is concerned if they don’t find a way to turn their fortunes around in Minnesota.

Week 8: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

8 of 17

    Date and Time: Monday, October 28 at 8:30 ET on ESPN

    What to Watch For: The Cardinals will make their first and only Monday Night Football appearance of the season against perhaps the most important of their division rivalries, the San Francisco 49ers.

    The bitter rivalry between the Cardinals and the 49ers sets the stage for a game that could have potential early playoff implications for both teams.

    Both 2012 squads look to be built in a very similar fashion, with strong defenses carrying weaker offenses. The defensive stands should be spectacular when these teams take the field.

    In 2011, the 49ers and the Cardinals split the series with each home team coming away with the win. Backed by their fans, the Cardinals will play hard to start this season’s series against the 49ers off with a win. This game promises to be some of the best football fans will see all year in Arizona.

Week 9: Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers

9 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, November 04 at 1:00 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: If the Green Bay Packers stay true to their 2011 form, Cardinals fans can expect lights-out offense and a soft defense when they travel to Lambeau Field in early November. At this time of year in Wisconsin, the weather might begin to play a factor in uncovered Lambeau, too.

    Against the Green Bay Packers, the best offense the Cardinals can bring will be a staunch defense. Aaron Rodgers showed at the end of last season that he is capable of having off days against a solid defensive line, so the Cardinals will have to bring everything they have up front and force turnovers in order to hang in the game.

    On the other side of the ball, this will be a hugely critical game for the Cardinals offense. Although the defense was able to support the low-scoring offense of 2011 surprisingly well, games against powerhouse offenses like the Packers can only be won by an offense that comes away with points on the majority of their possessions.

Week 10: Bye Week

10 of 17

    Over Week 10, the Cardinals will have a well-earned week of rest. Just after the season’s halfway point, the Cardinals will have the opportunity to rest up for the second half.

Week 11: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons

11 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, November 18 at 1:00 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: The Atlanta Falcons always have the potential to be a dangerous matchup, especially when they’re at home. This is the time of year when the real playoff contenders will really be heating up, and the Falcons will likely be one of the hopeful teams.

    The Falcons are a dangerous offense, not just because of Matt Ryan and his level head under pressure, but also because of Michael Turner and his dangerous rushing potential.

    The Cardinals play very few teams in 2012 that have equally dangerous running and passing games, so they will look to their defense to make a big statement against the Atlanta offense.  

Week 12: St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals

12 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, November 25 at 4:15 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: In Week 12, the Cardinals will have their first divisional rematch of the season when the Rams travel to University of Phoenix Stadium.

    The tone of this game may be dictated by the health of both teams when they meet this second time, or perhaps by which team has recovered the best from their Thanksgiving feast.

Week 13: Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets

13 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, December 02 at 1:00 EST on Fox

    What to Watch For: Who knows who will be starting at quarterback for the New York Jets by this point in the season?

    On the one hand, Mark Sanchez might be able to turn his fortunes around with the very real threat of being forced to hand over the reins to Tim Tebow if he doesn’t shape up. On the other hand, the Jets might just be desperate enough to start Tebow to see if he can produce a playoff miracle for them.

    With that uncertainty, as well as the rest of the roster shakeup that the Jets have undergone during the free agency period, this is currently one of the more unpredictable matchups that the Cardinals face.

Week 14: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

14 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, December 9 at 4:15 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: The Cardinals will travel to Seattle for their second annual division rematch. If last year is any indication, this game will have major implications for two teams struggling to stay in the playoff hunt.

    A big factor in this game will be how well Matt Flynn, the unproved but potentially great quarterback acquired by Seattle from Green Bay, fares late in the year. Paired with Marshawn Lynch, Flynn has the potential to be a dangerous opponent if he is able to maintain the type of performance that he put on at the end of the 2011 season.

Week 15: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals

15 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, 16 at 4:05 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: Yet another game with potentially big playoff implications features the Detroit Lions traveling to Arizona.

    Although the Cardinals may find themselves underdogs in their own house, the game should be a tight one. The combination of Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson is already electric and dangerous, but Detroit’s running game currently remains as weak as it was last season.

    Once again, the outcome of this game will be hugely dependent on whether the Cardinals offense can contribute its share on the field. The defense should be able to keep them in the game, so it will be up to the offense to put points on the board to help the team towards victory.

Week 16: Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals

16 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, December 23 at 4:15 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: The Chicago Bears fell apart towards the end of the 2011 season, failing to reproduce their juggernaut run from 2010.

    Much of the reason that Chicago struggled in the later part of the year was due to injury to key starters and a lack of reliable positional depth. For 2012, they have bolstered themselves offensively by bringing in Michael Bush to back up Matt Forte and Jason Campbell to back up Jay Cutler.

    The best case scenario for Chicago is reaching this late part of the season without losing either Cutler or Forte, which would allow Chicago the luxury of splitting touches between two bruising running backs.

    If that happens, the Cardinals will find themselves stretched thin trying to cover the dual offensive threat, even at home.

Week 17: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers

17 of 17

    Date and Time: Sunday, December 30 at 4:15 ET on Fox

    What to Watch For: The Cardinals will visit San Francisco to round out the regular season, a place where they have struggled to find success in recent years.

    Although we can hope that at this point in the season the Cardinals have locked up a playoff berth, chances are that it will come down to the final week of play. If that is the case, expect the Cardinals to go down swinging.

    Don’t expect the 49ers to let the Cardinals have an easy win late in the season, either, even if they have their playoff seeding locked in like they did at this point last year. Keeping a division rival from making the playoffs is plenty of reason for the 49ers to give everything they’ve got in this second meeting.