If the Arizona Cardinals are going to return to the postseason, they will have to succeed against a very tough schedule.
The squad started off strong last season with a 4-0 record at the end of September. Unfortunately, that is when things started to fall apart, and the team lost 11 of the final 12 games of the year.
After firing Ken Whisenhunt, the organization hired Bruce Arians to take over as the new head coach in an effort to turn things around. Last season's NFL Coach of the Year helped lead the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs as an interim head coach, and the Cardinals hope he can do the same in 2013.
Still, Arizona will do its best to contend for a playoff spot by surviving this schedule.
|2013 Arizona Cardinals Schedule|
|1||Sept. 8 ||at St. Louis Rams||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|2||Sept. 15 ||vs. Detroit Lions||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|3||Sept. 22 ||at New Orleans Saints||1 p.m.||FOX|
|4||Sept. 29||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.||FOX|
|5||Oct. 6||vs. Carolina Panthers||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|6||Oct. 13||at San Francisco 49ers||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|7||Oct. 17||vs. Seattle Seahawks||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|8||Oct. 27||vs. Atlanta Falcons||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|9||Nov. 3||BYE WEEK|
|10||Nov. 10||vs. Houston Texans||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 17||at Jacksonville Jaguars||1 p.m.||FOX|
|12||Nov. 24||vs. Indianapolis Colts||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Dec. 1||at Philadelphia Eagles||1 p.m.||FOX|
|14||Dec. 8||vs. St. Louis Rams||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|15||Dec. 15||at Tennessee Titans||1 p.m.||FOX|
|16||Dec. 22 ||at Seattle Seahawks||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|17||Dec. 29 ||vs. San Francisco 49ers||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
Note: For a complete look at Arizona's 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
According to NFL.com, the Cardinals have the seventh-toughest strength of schedule based on last year's records. This includes teams like the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles, who had down seasons in 2012 but should improve in 2013.
However, the toughest games will be the ones against the division. It is not easy winning in Seattle, San Francisco or on the road against the St. Louis Rams.
This means that the squad must take advantage of its home games against the same teams. Going 3-0 in these matchups might be vital to reach the playoffs.
If there is one saving grace with the schedule, however, it is that the Cardinals will avoid some of the toughest places to play in the league. The Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans combined to go 20-4 at home last season, but will all travel to Arizona next year.
Most Pivotal Matchup
While there are a number of tough games, the home matchup against the San Francisco 49ers might be the most important.
Last year's division champs will once again be the team to beat in the NFC West. Even with the improved Seahawks looking to make a run, Seattle has not yet taken the crown away from Jim Harbaugh's squad.
Arizona has lost seven of its last eight regular-season games against the 49ers. If the Cardinals want to be taken seriously this season, they must send a message by beating the reigning NFC champion.