2013 NFL schedule: Arizona Cardinals open crucial set of games to determine team identity

Christian Petersen

After several road games, the Cards play three of next four games at home/

After seven games, the Arizona Cardinals sit at 3-4. It isn't absolutely horrible, but it by no means a success. Yet, even at almost the midpoint of the season, we do not know exactly how good or bad this football team is. They are still in a position to perhaps make some noise in the playoff race, but also could see the season go down the toilet.

Their next four games will determine the type of team they are -- bad, mediocre or one of the many that will be in playoff contention until the end.

Coming up over the next five weeks are the following -- the Falcons at home, a bye, the Texans at home, the Jaguars on the road and the Colts at home.

We know that the Cardinals cannot really keep up with the league's elite. They have lost by double digits to the 5-2 49ers, 61 Seahawks and 5-1 Saints. They have beaten the 4-3 Lions, the 3-3 Panthers and the 0-6 Buccaneers.

Atlanta is 2-4, Houston is 2-5 and Jacksonville is 0-7. Indy is 5-2, but they have lost to average teams -- the Chargers and Dolphins. They have also beaten the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos.

With this stretch of games, they need to go 3-1 to remain at least in the playoff hunt, as they will close the season at the Eagles, at the Titans, hosting the Rams, at Seattle and hosting San Francisco.

How will the Cardinals respond? Will they come out and show that they are better than last year's team? Can they get on a little roll? Will they be up and down, battling to get to .500? Will they fall apart with their offensive line issues like they did in 2012?

Atlanta will be the first test. They certainly have had their problems, but they have Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Fame tight end, and the Cards have been absolutely destroyed by the position. However, they do not have a good pass rush and they struggle to run the ball. Matt Ryan, though, is playing well. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes, only three interceptions and has a passer rating of over 100. He is completing 70 percent of his passes.

Will they get off on the right foot? Arizona needs to if they want to keep in the playoff picture.

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