Well, we know what the 2016 schedule has in store for the Arizona Cardinals. They have four prime time games scheduled in the first half of the season -- three at home and three games in a row. Two of them are on Sunday Night Football.
So here are some thoughts I have on the schedule.
The season starts with a game against the New England Patriots. The storyline there is the big trade between the two teams. Chandler Jones gets to try and sack Tom Brady after never being allowed to hit him in practice. Of course, it is in prime time.
Facing Seattle is always a big deal. That storyline is built in.
And then...Week 8. The return to Carolina, where the Cardinals have been embarrassed two years in a row and eliminated from the postseason.
Is the league playing wait and see?
Notice how the Cardinals have four prime time games in the first seven weeks. They play on national TV three straight weeks. They didn't get a late-season Monday night or Thursday night game. They still can get flexed, but clearly the league is using the success they had last year to use early in the season, but might not be ready to go all in for the rest of the year. It is almost as if they don't quite trust the Cardinals to maintain that success.
Arizona schedule built for strong start
The Cardinals get three home games in their first four and five in the first half of the season. In fact, starting the season at home on national TV is the perfect way to play the Patriots. I like the Cardinals in that situation more than any other week. When the Seahawks roll into town in Week 7, it is not unthinkable for Arizona to be 6-0 or 5-1.
Tough stretch to end the year, but not too tough
The Cardinals will play five of their final seven games on the road. However, three of those five games are against the Dolphins, Falcons and Rams. They will be in Minnesota, at home against Washington and in Seattle, so they do get three playoff teams from last season down the stretch. It is tough, but doable.
Look at the late-season schedule on the road. They will be in Minnesota in November, but their December road games are Miami, Seattle and L.A. Seattle is always cold and rainy, so nothing new there, but that is very nice.
Since all teams will play on Thursday night and all teams will feature a Color Rush uniform, we can speculate to how awful the Cardinals' jerseys will look in San Francisco. They will either be all white or all red. My guess? All bright red. Eww.
The Cardinals are playing a first place schedule and play some tough teams. However, their road schedule is very, very manageable. I'll write more about early season predictions later, but how do you see this season playing out? I see it as a favorable schedule overall. What do you say?