Arizona Cardinals 2011 NFL Schedule: A Way Too Early Look At Getting Back To The Playoffs

With the 2011 NFL schedule now out and with the lockout and draft having been the only two real topics of discussion we have had for some time, people are looking way too deeply into the individual teams schedules. We here are ROTB are no different. We already want to give you our thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals 2011 NFL schedule and also look ahead at the matchups, trying to look at what it will take for the Cards to return to the postseason.

My thoughts on the Cardinals 2011 schedule can be found on SB Nation Arizona, so have a look at what is there, but a quick rundown is in order:

  1. The Cards begin and end the season at home. This is very good.
  2. They finish the season with four of the final five at home. Also good. However, preceding those five weeks are five weeks in which they play on the road four times. That will be a rough stretch.
  3. Eight games (six teams) are against teams with questions at the quarterback position. This won't really matter because the Cards have QB issues of their own.
  4. There are no prime time Cardinals games. Are we surprised? However, if they are competitive and in the playoff hunt, they could have their games "flexed" to Sunday night.
  5. 2010 records indicate that the 2011 schedule for the Cards is the weakest in the league once again. It is way too early to say that because all those bad teams are trying to improve. Plus, that is mostly due to the fact that they play in the NFC West.
Now, moving on to what it will take to get the Cardinals back to the playoffs where they belong...

They must win division games

To win the NFC West, I think it is absolutely necessary to win a minimum of four division games. 

They must beat weak teams

I know, this is tougher than it sounds. The Cardinals were a bad team, having lost to the worst team in the NFL last season. These "must-win" games against likely weak teams are Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers and Week 15 at home versus the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals game is on the road and that team is a bit confusing as to how strong or weak they are. But beating Carolina and Cleveland, combined with four division victories would bring the Cards to six wins and two losses. 

Nine wins is likely the number of wins needed to be division champs. That means three more out of eight remaining games. 

They must pull off at least one "upset" win

The Cardinals face three teams that were very strong in 2010 -- the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens. They must beat one of those teams if they want to make the playoffs. The most likely game would be against the Steelers. It is the only home game of the three and the Cards will have a bye week to prepare for it. That would bring the win total to seven.

They must at least split their two home games against "potentially good teams"

They host both the Giants and the Cowboys. Both are potentially very good teams. The Cardinals must win one of these two. That would bring the total wins to eight.

They must have at least one East Coast road win

To get to the magical win number nine, they must beat one of the "weaker" teams they play on the road out east. They play the Redskins, Vikings and Bengals. Looking at 2010 performances, each one of these games is winnable. But all these games start early (1PM ET) and the Bengals game is on Christmas Eve, which potentially has very bad weather, another bad thing for the Cards.

If they can pull out only one of those three games, or somehow beat the Ravens in Baltimore, they would have nine wins. Nine wins should get them back to the postseason.

...

It is very, very, VERY early to think about how the actual season will turn out for the Cardinals. We still don't even know if there will be a season. But if there is (and I am almost certain there will be), this is a very early look at what the Cardinals' playoff chances will be for this season. They certainly have a chance. 
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