At 4 PM Arizona time yesterday, the NFL finally released the information we have all been waiting for. Not only do we know the opponents the Cardinals will be facing next season, but now we know when they will be playing them. In case you missed it, here is the schedule.
Jess mentioned in his post that the Cardinals have two prime time games in 2012, one against the Rams and another on Monday Night Football against the 49ers. But what about the other games? Which ones are important and why? I'll give you a few of my thoughts after the jump.
Opening at home is, I think, a huge advantage for the Cardinals. It gives them a better chance to win and therefore, a better chance to get into the season already on a roll. They get to see the new look Seattle Seahawks in week one with their new quarterback, Matt Flynn.
With the Cards having to travel to Foxborough in September, they likely avoid the extreme cold and the snow. If they ever wanted the chance to beat Tom Brady in Gillette Stadium, that is as good of time as any. Again, the Cardinals may catch a break getting to play the Packers in early November in Lambeau Field. The only game that they might not be so lucky in terms of weather is in week 13 against the New York Jets in the Medowlands.
With 3 of the first 4 games being at home, the Cardinals have a chance to start the season on a nice hot streak, something that the team will need to do to contend for the NFC West crown. Also, getting off to a good start is important because the Cards do not get to take their bye until week 10.
The final three games of the season should prove to be a real test for Arizona. They will have to play two playoff teams from 2011 and the fate of their season might lie in the pivotal week 17 matchup against the 49ers.
With the schedule looking slightly easier towards the beginning and the back end being so loaded, much of the Cardinals' season will rely upon how they play in those first few games. If they struggle out of the gates, next season could turn into a disaster rather quickly. If they win the majority of those games, then hopefully the momentum can carry them through the rest of the season.
What are your thoughts on the schedule? Are there any games you feel the Cardinals must win in order to make the postseason? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.