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It’s coming, but when?: Preparing for the Cardinals’ first loss

Let’s face it: We’re not going undefeated. That fist loss is coming. Let’s try to figure out when by looking ahead at the schedule.

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals
Even a fired-up J.J. Watt knows a Cardinals loss is coming.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Life is pretty good for Cardinals fans right now. We’re 5-0, atop the NFC, and with what amounts to a two-game lead in the NFC West. We’ve got one of the best offenses AND defenses in the league, with fun players to watch on both sides of the ball.

Yeah, life is pretty good right now.

But—and I hate to be the bearer of bad news—we’re not going to go undefeated this season. The 1972 Miami Dolphins will get to pop their champagne, as they always do. It’s just impossible to do these days with the amount of talent in the league and the longer schedule. That first loss is coming.

So it’s best to start preparing for it now. Today, let’s take a look at the upcoming schedule and see how likely each matchup is to result in that first L. I’ll rate each matchup as a Low, Medium, or High chance.

Week 6 – Away vs. Cleveland Browns

The Browns are 3-2 with their only losses close ones on the road to other AFC contenders (a Week 1 heartbreaker against the Chiefs and last week’s shootout with the Chargers). They have the #1 rushing offense in the league, a capable QB in Baker Mayfield, and a talented defense that’s much better than how they played last week. This is also an East Coast 10:00 a.m. body clock game and we’re banged up. This is going to be a tough one.

High chance of our first loss.

Week 7 – Home vs. Houston Texans

The 1-4 Texans have been a little friskier than expected, springing an “upset” against the Jaguars in Week 1 and giving the Browns a game in Week 2. They were dominated by the Panthers and Bills after that, but nearly beat the Patriots last week. First-year head coach David Culley has these guys playing hard. That said, while there are no gimmies in this league, this one is close. The Texans are one of the worst teams in the league and we’ll be about two-touchdown favorites at home. Stranger things have happened… but not many.

Low chance of our first loss.

Week 8 – Home vs. Green Bay Packers

Even though the Pack are 4-1, it’s been kind of a topsy-turvy season for them so far. They got blown out against the Saints in Week 1, then had solid wins against the Lions and Steelers sandwiched around a last-gasp win against the Niners. And of course there was last week’s kicking clinic against the Bengals. I don’t quite know what to make of this team, but I also know you should never bet against Aaron Rodgers in primetime. This is at home, so I’m tempted to go Medium, but it’s a Thursday night game, so anything can happen. This’ll be another tough one.

High chance of our first loss.

Week 9 – Away vs. San Francisco 49ers

We just survived a 17-10 slugfest at home against this team with a rookie QB making his first career start. This is a good football team. That said, who knows what they’ll look like in four weeks. Will Trey Lance still be the starter, or will Jimmy Garoppolo be back under center? Which running backs will be healthy? Will George Kittle be back? So many variables. And division road games are always tough. We’re the better team, but this one seems like a toss-up.

Medium chance of our first loss.

Week 10 – Home vs. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers started out red hot, going 3-0 with a much-improved Sam Darnold and a strong defense (albeit, it was against an easy schedule: NYJ, NO, at HOU). But they’ve not lost two straight against NFC East opponents (at DAL, PHI), looking a little more ordinary. Their schedule does look a bit more manageable before they travel to the desert (MIN, at NYG, at ATL, NE). This looks like a team that will be in the playoff hunt all season, and they’ve had our number in recent seasons. We’ll be favored at home, but this is a plucky team under Matt Rhule, who looks like a keeper.

Medium chance of our first loss.

Week 11 – Away vs. Seattle Seahawks

The big question here is whether or not Russell Wilson is back from injury yet. This is right on the projected timeline for when he’ll be back. If he’s in uniform, this would easily be a High chance—Wilson at home is as tough as they come. But if it’s still Geno Smith? Even given the Redbirds’ recent history against backup QBs, I’d like our chances. This is looking like a lost season for the Seahawks, but you can never take a division foe lightly on the road. Let’s split the difference between Low and High.

Medium chance of our list loss.

After the Bye

I fully expect us to lose a game—maybe even two—before the bye. But in the unlikely event we hit our off week at an unfathomable 11-0, here is the rest of the schedule lightning-round style:

  • Week 13 – at CHI: Low chance
  • Week 14 – vs. LAR: High chance
  • Week 15 – at DET: Low chance
  • Week 16 – vs. IND: Medium chance
  • Week 17 – at DAL: High chance
  • Week 18 – vs. SEA: Medium chance

Final Thoughts

This whole column could be moot by the end of the weekend. Kyler didn’t look right last week, we’ll be without Maxx Williams (and maybe Chandler Jones and Byron Murphy), and did I mention that the Browns have the #1 rushing offense in the league? (I did.) I don’t want to say I think we lose on Sunday, but… I’m not going to say I think we win either.

And honestly, I’d be okay with a loss this week. It’d take a little pressure off this team, and it’s a non-conference game, so a loss wouldn’t hurt nearly as bad from a playoff seeding standpoint. Not that I’m advocating for “getting the loss out of the way early”—I’m just being pragmatic. As all Cardinals fans should be, given the history of our franchise.

What’s everyone else thinking? When do you see that first loss coming? Just, please, don’t let me see anyone predict that we’ll go undefeated.

It just ain’t happening. Keep that champagne on ice, Fins.