The 2009 home opponents were recently announced for the Arizona Cardinals, the only question left is how the reining NFC Champions will deal with each of them.
Starting Sept. 13 with a home-opener against the San Fransisco 49ers, the Cardinals will face off at the University of Phoenix Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, and Green Bay Packers.
So, what can we expect?
Of course there will be obvious challenges for the Cards when facing the Colts and Panthers, but teams like the Seahawks and the Packers should not be counted out. Coming off of hard seasons last year, both the Seahawks and the Packers could jam a steel rod in the finely tuned offensive heavy Cardinals.
The Seahawks were able to grab No. 4 overall pick Aaron Curry from Wake Forest and the Packers grabbed Defensive Tackle B.J. Raji from BC at No. 10 overall. Both were strong players in college and could wreak havoc on the Cardinals if given the chance.
This, of course, is not to count out the Cardinals. With rookies like running back Chris Wells and offensive lineman Herman Johnson, the boys from the desert have gained top players to build their team upon in the coming years.
Center Lyle Sendlein came off of his second year in the NFL with a run to the Super Bowl and should also come back, stronger than ever, to help strengthen the Arizona offense.
The Carolina Panthers, as long as the choking is kept to a minimum, could prove to be a worthy adversary again for the Cardinals, especially towards the end of the season when the playoffs begin to loom nearer and nearer.
The Colts, lead by Mr. Manning, will be a tough opponent. But much like the fans in the late RCA Dome, the heat and the pressure in Glendale might help to stir the pot enough to lead the Cardinals to an early season victory.
And that's what the Cardinals are going to need: early season victories. The 49ers, Texans and the away contest against the Bears will have to help balance out games against the Giants, Colts, Panthers and Titans.
The final four games of the season might turn out to be key also to a playoff berth for the Cardinals if the early season competitions return mixed reviews. A fight in Candlestick Park with the 49ers, a battle on the road against Detroit, and two home games against the Rams and the Packers will help them get back to the top of the NFC come December.
If all goes according to plan, the Cardinals will be sitting pretty on top of the NFC West and left to pick off playoff teams like berries from a tree.
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