Arizona Cardinals: Updated Game-by-Game Outlook for 2012
Despite starting out strong, the Arizona Cardinals have gone on a downward spiral over the past two weeks. They have looked awful ever since their blowout win over Philadelphia and were lucky to beat Miami.
The injury bug has killed Arizona over the past couple of years. For the second straight season, Ryan Williams is out for the year and Beanie Wells is also on IR.
After beating some of the top teams in the league through the first three weeks, it was looking like the Cardinals were playoff-bound.
Two weeks later, and they are playing like a team who might not make it to eight wins.
This is the same old up-and-down team that we are used to seeing. It has a lot of work to do if it wants to return to the playoffs.
Here is an updated game-by-game outlook.
Week 6 vs. Buffalo
This game couldn’t come at a better time for the Cardinals. Their offense scored just three points last week, and they are facing a defense that has given up 97 points over their past two games.
With Mark Anderson injured and Mario Williams struggling, their putrid offensive line has a lot less to worry about.
Arizona cannot take this game lightly, but even if it does, it is a tough one to lose.
Week 7 at Minnesota
This Week 7 matchup is a battle between the NFL’s two biggest surprise teams this year. These two squads have combined for an 8-2 record with wins over top teams such as New England and San Francisco.
The last time Arizona went to Minnesota, it was blown out, 34-10. The Cardinals and Kevin Kolb in particular have learned a lot from that game. This was supposed to be one of the easier games in their schedule, and they were embarrassed.
Both teams have experienced some pretty big changes since their last meeting. Christian Ponder will be at the helm for Minnesota this time around, and William Powell will likely be the Cardinals' starting running back.
Arizona was destroyed by Adrian Peterson last year, and it will be interesting to see what Ray Horton and company have planned this time around.
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
If you followed my writing prior to the start of the season, then you are probably aware of my thoughts on this game. There are no words to stress the importance of this game for Arizona.
Right now, San Francisco is a team that many are picking to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. It made it to the final four last year, but fell just short.
This season, it is tied with Arizona for first in the NFC West division at 4-1; however, many believe that the 49ers will sweep the Cardinals and take the division again rather easily.
Many Cards fans complain about the lack of respect that this team gets, and it is largely due to their performances in prime-time.
They were terrible against St. Louis, but they will have an opportunity to make up for it on Monday Night Football against the reigning division champs.
Week 9 at Green Bay
The final game before their bye, Arizona will look to improve the NFC West’s record to either 3-1 or 4-0 against the Packers in Green Bay. If St. Louis can pull off the upset in Week 7, then the Cardinals may have an opportunity to finish off a sweep of the Pack.
Although there was a lot of controversy surrounding the Packers' loss to the Seahawks, Seattle was still able to expose Green Bay’s offensive line woes.
Chris Clemons had a huge day against the cheeseheads, and it is almost scary to think of what the Cards front seven will do.
These are two huge games in back-to-back weeks for Arizona. If it can win one and keep one close, it will prove that it is, indeed, a playoff team.
Week 11 at Atlanta
If there is one positive in this game for the Cardinals, it is that they are coming off of their bye. Ray Horton will have almost two full weeks to prepare for Atlanta’s high-powered offense.
The Falcons have two tough divisional games in Week 10 and 12, so Arizona could be coming in at the right time. I don’t expect it to win, but I wouldn’t bet on Atlanta here, either.
Week 12 vs. St. Louis
The St. Louis Rams have proven that they are a very tough team to beat at home this season. They are 3-0 with wins over Seattle, Washington and Arizona.
This is by no means an easy game for Arizona, but it is absolutely one that it should win.
Week 13 at New York Jets
Arizona will be getting a bit of a break in its schedule here. It is coming off a game against the Rams, and now it gets to play a Jets team that is without Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis.
New York is a mess right now, and you never know what will happen between now and Week 13. We may even be seeing Tim Tebow in this game.
The Cardinals have a few tough games at end the year and must win these two to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Week 14 at Seattle
Even though they were given a fourth timeout, the Seattle Seahawks were still unable to beat Arizona in Week 1.
These two teams will go at it again in Week 14, but this time in Seattle. Last year, the Cardinals lost 13-10 in Seattle, but were without Beanie Wells. Jay Feely also missed two field goals in that game.
If both Arizona and Seattle can stay consistent, then this game could have big wild card implications. Both teams had a very strong finish in 2011, and if they can do the same this year, then the NFC West will have two teams in the playoffs.
Week 15 vs. Detroit
This is an interesting game, and one that is very tough to predict at this point in the season. The Lions have struggled so far this season, but they will have Jahvid Best back soon.
It is also only a matter of time before Matthew Stafford either heats up or gets injured. If he gets injured or continues his mediocre play, then it is an easy win for Arizona. If he heats up like he is expected to, then we are in for a very good game.
I recently wrote an article about where Patrick Peterson ranks among the top NFL corners, and this is the game we will find out. Can he shut down Calvin Johnson or not?
On the other side of the ball, if the offensive line can hold up, then Larry Fitzgerald should have a field day against a weak Detroit secondary.
Week 16 vs. Chicago
If the “they are who we thought they were” rant was the first thing that came to your mind when you thought of Arizona vs. Chicago, don’t worry; you were not the only one.
For the first time in four years, the Cardinals and Bears will face off in another game that could have huge playoff implications. Each of the last four games for Arizona will be against teams that could be in the playoff hunt.
Similar to the Atlanta game, the Cards could be facing Chicago at the right time. They have a Week 15 game against Green Bay before finishing the year off in Detroit.
It is hard to see there being a “trap” game this late in the year, but the Bears may not be as focused as they should be.
This is another game that Arizona should not be in, but it will hang around anyway.
Week 17 at San Francisco
If their Week 8 matchup is of the most importance, than you could definitely consider this No. 2.
Assuming that both teams continue to win, this will be a game that everyone is talking about. San Francisco could potentially be playing for a first-round bye, and Arizona could need this win to make the playoffs.
These two teams split last season, with the home team winning in each contest. The Cardinals could win the Week 8 game, but I do not see them walking into San Fran and taking the final game of the year.