In our last segment, I predicted that the Cardinals would open the season on the road at St. Louis with a win, and then would travel to Atlanta to pull out a win in a tough road game, beginning the season 2-0. This week things get tougher when the Cardinals open their first two games at home against half of the AFC West.
Week 3 - vs Oakland Raiders
Key Additions: Michael Bennett(RB), Kyle Boller(QB), Rock Cartwright(RB), Chris Cooper(DL), John Owens(TE), Joey Thomas(DB), Rolando McClain(ILB), Jason Campbell(QB)
Key Losses: Kirk Morrison(ILB), JaMarcus Russell(QB), Greg Ellis(DE), Justin Fargas(RB), Cornell Green(OT), Javon Walker(WR), Gerard Warren(DT)
Offseason Analysis:The Raiders perhaps had one of the most productive offseasons in their recent history. They recorded one of the best drafts in 2010 when they landed Rolando McClain in the first round and were able to steal Bruce Campbell in the later rounds. They were able to dump JaMarcus Russell and Javon Walker and their huge contracts as well. The Raiders also made a trade for Jason Campbell and appear to be moving out of the basement of their division.
Season Outlook: 2010 will be an interesting year for the Raiders. They recorded some upsets last season and have talent on both sides of the ball. Drafting McClain, franchising Richard Seymour, and already having the best cornerback in the league - Nnamdi Asomugha - gives Oakland one of the top defenses in the league. If their offense can take advantage of all the former first round picks they've drafted, they can be a surprise team in 2010.
Key Match-Up: Larry Fitzgerald vs Nnamdi Asomugha - The best wide receiver versus the best cornerback in the NFL will fight for the best position in what will be the most watched match up of the game. Nmadi has established himself as a shutdown corner in the league and we all know what Fitzgerald brings to the table. Who will get the best of who?
Prediction:Win - The Cardinals jump out to a 3-0 record on the season. Although it seems very unlikely now, consider that the Cardinals first three games are not against the upper echelon of teams in the league. This game is the home opener and the crowd should be pumped, especially since their last game at University of Phoenix Stadium was the amazing overtime win against the Packers in the playoffs this past year. The Cardinals will also be ready to defend their home field.
Week 4 - at San Diego Chargers
Key Additions: Nathan Vasher(CB), Donald Strickland(CB), Marcus Mason(RB), Ryan Matthews(RB)
Key Losses: Antonio Cromartie(CB), LaDanian Tomlinson(RB), Jamal Williams(DT), Michael Bennett(RB), Charlie Whitehurst(QB), Brandon Manumaleuna(TE), Kassim Osgood(WR)
Offseason Analysis: The Chargers had a similar offseason to the Cardinals as far as losses go. They departed with three big names in Tomlinson, Cromartie, and Williams. They also had an interesting draft when they reached for Ryan Matthews midway through the first round. Only time will tell if the losses hurt their chances in 2010.
Season Outlook: The Chargers are still the clear favorite to win the division next season. Although the Broncos and Raiders have made strides to retool their team, the Chargers feature the division's best quarterback and have a plethora of talent on the defensive side of the ball. As long as they can take care of their division, they shouldn't have a problem earning yet another playoff berth.
Key Match-Up: Cardinals defensive line vs Chargers offensive line - The Chargers offensive line is one of the most physical lines in the league and will be the first real test for the Cardinals big three. Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, and rookie Dan Williams will line up for a challenge and this is a huge match up to look out for.
Prediction: Loss - The Cardinals will suffer their first loss of the season against the Chargers four weeks into the season. San Diego won't necessarily blow out the Cardinals but they should match up well and pose potential problems for the Cardinals defense with Phillip Rivers at quarterback.
The Cardinals first two home game will go as expected, with them beating the Raiders and falling to the Chargers the following week. Starting off 3-1 is certainly the best way to open the first month of the season, and the Cardinals could be staring 2-2 in the face at the very worst. The Cardinals have the pleasure of featuring the league's easiest schedule, and it will show by week five.