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Arizona Cardinals defense to be tested in 2014

A month into their schedule shows some very good offensive opponents.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The expected step back that the Arizona Cardinals defense was going to take has not really been seen yet. That is a very good thing.

They are stuffing the run. They are keeping teams from scoring. They are winning games.

They don't have a steady pass rush, which is a concern, but so far for the defense, it has been very good.

A look at the Arizona schedule the rest of the way shows that the defense will be needed to continue its play.

The 2014 Arizona Cardinals schedule is suddenly looking tougher than it did to start the season. We all knew the division games would be tough, but playing the NFC East looked like it would be an easier road.

But with the performance of teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs, games that looked like you could pencil in wins fairly easily don't look that way.

This change in outlook is not uncommon. In 2013, the schedule looked very difficult. The Houston Texans were coming off a great year. The Falcons were expected to be Super Bowl contenders. Both teams became dumpster fires. The Colts, who were a playoff team, came to town when they were a mess, too.

But so far in 2014, the perceived toughness in schedule has increased and it will test the Cardinals defense.

Dallas defeated the Saints at home. Arizona plays the Cowboys in Dallas. Dallas has scored over 30 each of the past two weeks and their offense looks fantastic, especially with the play of DeMarco Murray.

The Chiefs put up 34 on the Dolphins and then 41 on the Patriots.

The Falcons put up 56 in Week 3, 37 in Week 1 and 28 on Sunday in a loss.

The Detroit Lions have not scored as many points, but they have a very potent offense as well.

There is reason to be optimistic, though. Arizona makes Matt Ryan play his worst. The Chiefs have to come to Arizona and the Cardinals have the Lions' number in recent years. Dallas hasn't beaten the Cardinals in years.

Much has been said about an improved Arizona offense. Thus far, those improvements have been inconsistent. It is the defense that is still carrying this team.

With the opponents on the schedule, the defense will be tested. It will face some very good units. Can the Cardinals defense continue to shut teams down? Can they continue to get solid play without a pass rush?

If the Cardinals can continue to limit opposing offenses the way they have, there should be no doubt. This defense is good. But looking at the road ahead, it will need to be.