The preseason has wrapped up, and the 2012 regular season kicks off September 5th. The Arizona Cardinals have named their starting QB in John Skelton. The run game looks promising. Larry Fitzgerald is still an all star wide receiver, and the defense under Ray Horton's watch has top tier caliber.
So how will it all play out? Other writers have the Cardinals down in the cellar, winning five games or less. With that being said, I took a further look into the games upcoming and broke them down for wins and losses.
Hit the jump to see my W - L projection for each game.
Sunday 9/9 @ 1:15 PM: The Cards open their season at home, against an NFC West rival in the Seattle Seahawks. We know the other birds of the division well. Their 4-3 D is stout against the run, and they have big/physical DBs. On the offensive side of the ball the have a bruiser in RB Marshawn Lynch, who may be suspended. QB is rookie third round pick Russell Wilson. The Seahawks have the weapons to play good football if their Oline can stay healthy and Wilson operates the system like he did in pre-season. It is the rookie factor that is Seattle's hinge-pin though, if Wilson plays well, the Seahawks could very well improve on their 7 - 9 record of last year. However, this is the rooks first official game as a Seahawk, and the Cards are at home, riding a large home field advantage. I expect Ray Horton's defense to surge to the occasion and make Wilson's day miserable, which will cover for our slow start out of the gate offensively. Cards get a hard fought win here. W
Sunday 9/16 @ 10:00 AM: Speaking of hard fought, the Cards travel back East to take on the New England Patriots, orchestrated by Bill "Dark Overlord" Belichick and Tom "Precision" Brady. The secondary of the Cards will be tested by the duo of Robb Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Cards front seven need to generate hurries/hits/sacks on Tom Brady to disrupt his rhythm. As Brady goes, so do the Pats. On offense, the Cards find themselves facing a statistically poor defense from last year that has been heavy imprinted by the past two drafts. Who surges to the occasion here, an offense with identity/QB questions or a fledgling defense? Call it a case of the back east curse, but the Cards lose a close one. L
Sunday 9/23 @ 1:05 PM: Things don't get easier for the Cardinals as they come home to face the freshly reloaded, highly touted Philadelphia Eagles. If you want to be talked about, beat the teams they're talking about. The Cards get a chance to do so against Michael Vick, the shifty LeSean McCoy, and WRs Jeremy Mackin and DeSean Jackson. O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho will have their hands full, as will Patrick Peterson and William Gay. On the flip side, John Skelton will try and move the ball against a great secondary unit while the Oline gets tested again against a stout 4 - 3 front. At the end of the day, the Cards do come out winners, as they figure out how to contain Vick and co. W
Sunday 9/30 @ 1:05 PM: Another week at home, and momentum is riding with the Cards here. Next up, the Miami Dolphins. Another rookie enter the Bird Nest, as Ryan Tannehill shows up leading a team in flux. Reggie Bush was a thousand yard rusher last season, and is effective out of the backfield in the short passing game as well. But contain him and the Dolphins struggle to move the ball. Look for Adrian Wilson to have box duties. Darnell Dockett and Calais Cambell will face a stout offensive line, a good test for the front three. On the offensive side of the Cards unit, the D'Anothony Batiste will have his hands full with Cameron Wake. The linebacker duo of Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett will also test the run game. Look for Anthony Sherman to have a big day leading the RB tandem of Beanie Wells and Ryan Willams through the hole. On the edges Richard Marshall joins Vontae Davis in coverage, bringing his insight of the Cards with him. It matters not as the Cards show the Dolphins the way to the losers column. W.
Thursday 10/4 @ 5:20 PM: A good day to be a Cardinals player. A game in the division as they head back east to meet the St. Louis Rams for the first time this season. This is not the Rams of last year. Coach Fisher brings a new mindset to his team. Sam Bradford is healthy. The Oline is healthy. Steven Jackson is a stout runner, and like all the NFC West backs broke 1000 yards last season. However, the Rams lack a true deep #1 wideout. Look for the Cards to take advantage of this by bringing Adrian Wilson down into the box. The front three of Dockett, Campbell, and Dan Williams need to control the run game. As this is the fifth game of the season, I hope Stewart Bradley is manning the middle with Daryl Washington, who is a play-maker all over the field. On the flip side, the Card's offense is again tested by last years #1 pick Robert Quinn who is lined up opposite double digit sack artist Chris Long. Batiste and Bobby Massie have their work cut out as the bookends of the Cards Oline. Look for Todd Heap and Rob Housler to be used here in both the run and passing game. In the end, the Cards once again take a victory here. W
Sunday 10/14 @ 1:05 PM: The Cards come back riding a three game win streak. Arriving in town a bit later to meet them are the Buffalo Bills, who spent a good sum of money in the off season to become more talented. At this point in time I'm not certain of the man leading the offense, Ryan Fitzpatrick. However, he has much help in the way of RBs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. On the outside, Stevie Johnson commands attention on the outside. This game favors the Cardinals defense though, as Patrick Peterson will be given the one on one task of Johnson, leaving Kerry Rhodes free to roam the secondary. On the offensive side of the ball, the Cards have their major worry in the form of Mario Williams. He eats QBs three meals a day. If the Oline can protect Skelton, I see the Cards winning another game. W.
Sunday 10/21 @ 10:00 AM: Headed back east, the Cardinals face off against the Minnesota Vikings. Back east, cold, and facing a good Vikings team. Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson give second year QB Christian Ponder plenty to work with, in addition to TE Kyle Rudolph. On the defensive side, Jared Allen is another top tier test for Batiste, who'll need a superb game to keep Skelton clean. If that can happen, there are opportunities to be had against Minnesota's secondary. But the wins are absent this day, and the Cards lose a close one. L.
Monday 10/29 @ 5:30 PM: Monday night football, and what a slobber-knocker the NFL has in store for you. The San Francisco 49ers come on over from the bay to play the Cards in a key division matchup. There is no love lost between these two teams. Each has a solid run attack, and talent at the wideout position. Vernon Davis is a pro bowl TE, and has emerged as one of the best in the game. Frank Gore and Kendell Hunter are dangerous out of the backfield with a one two of power and speed. Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree provide out for Alex Smith. On the defensive side, the 49ers sport Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, two beasts in the middle. Aldon Smith was a terror off the edge last year, and I expect the OLB to keep it up this year. And DT Justin Smith is a name to remember as well. Look for the Cards to get a W here. But this W is hard earned and physical. W.
Sunday 11/4 @ 11:00 AM: The football gods must have been angry with the Cardinals when the schedule was being made. After a tough home game against the 49ers, they head back east to take on the dangerous Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers. Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley provide the Packer's trigger-man with well known, reliable targets. On the defensive side, the Packers used the draft to get better, lining up rookie Nick Perry across from Clay Matthews. Charles Woodson still mans the secondary, providing the big hits. Ultimately, the Cards take another loss here, as all the variables are too much to overcome. L.
Sunday 11/18 @ 11:00 AM: Another back east game, against another very good team in the Atlanta Falcons. QB Mattew Ryan is living every QB's dream, throwing to Roddy White, Julio Jones and veteran future hall of famer TE Tony Gonzales in addition to bruising RB Michael Turner. One the defensive side of the ball is where the Card's can take advantage of the Falcons, utilizing Chris Wells and Ryan Williams as a solid one two punch. Look for that to open the play action game to Fitzgerald and rookie Michael Floyd. Another benefit is that the Cards get a bye week to prepare for the game. All these factors average out to a win for the #Birdgang. W
Sunday 11/25 @ 2:15 PM: The Rams again, at home. RB Beanie Wells had a standout game for the Cards last year against the Rams. Look for this to occur again, with a healthy dose of Ryan Williams. The defense needs to keep Jackson bottled up, which is never an easy assignment. They also need Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield to get after Sam Bradford to make his life miserable. On the flip side, Skelton needs to let the run game develop and make the most of the play action pass attempts he gets. And protect the ball. At home, against the Rams, I see another win here. W.
Sunday 12/02 @ 11:00 AM: The Cards head back east to visit the New York Jets, who have similar QB issues with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. But make no mistake about it, the Rex Ryan defense is as stout as they come, with Calvin Pace crashing the edge and Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie manning the corner positions. This game should come down to the defenses, and who can make the opposing offense more uncomfortable. That being said, the Cards drop a nail biter to the Jets. L.
Sunday 12/9 @ 2:15 PM: Another division game greets the Cards as the head up to Seattle to take on the Seahawks for the second time in 2012. This time though, the Seahawks best the Cards for a win, using home field advantage and a strong running game to keep a close game in their favor. L.
Sunday 12/16 @ 2:05 PM: Home again, with the Detroit Lions here to visit. QB Matt Stafford to WR Calvin Johnson has become a household phrase for most of America. TE Brandon Pettigrew offers Stafford an escape valve as well. Kerry Rhodes, Adrian Wilson, and the secondary will have plenty to focus on this week. On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions have a terrific front four, with Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, and Kyle Vanden-Bosch pushing the pocket. This will be a great challenge for the likes of Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, and Adam Snyder to keep John Skelton upright and to open holes for the Cards stable of RB's. I see a win here, but it won;t be an easy victory. W
Sunday 12/23 @ 2:15 PM: Home once again, two days before Christmas, and what a treat if you are a football fan. Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears are here for the holidays. With Cutler throwing the newly acquired Brandon Marshall, and Devin Hester's blazing speed down the sidelines, expect another test for the Cards secondary. Toss in Matt Forte running behind a well stocked Oline, and the defense will have to dig deep. On the flip side, Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers are big names that can crush any offensive dream. To have success here, the Cards will have to go after the Bear's secondary. I just don;t know how well they will be able to do that, and so the Cards lose another game here. L.
Sunday 12/30 @ 2:15 PM: The last game of 2012, and the best for last indeed. The San Francisco 49ers, on their home turf. Both teams will be fired up to play ball. That's just the state of their rivalry. Both defenses will surge to the occasion. In the end though, the 49ers pull this game out in another hard fought struggle. L.
So there you have it, a 9 - 7 record for the cardinals this 2012 season. What do you think? To many, to few? Let me know below.