Today, the Arizona Cardinals kick off their 2021 season with a road game against the Tennessee Titans. With the season upon us, it’s time to unveil my official prediction for the season. We’ve already gone though the best-case and worst-case scenarios. Now it’s time to project how I see this team in the third year of the Kliff and Kyler era. Will we finally break through and return to the playoffs? Read on to find out. (Note: Ran out of time this weekend, so have to go lightning round.)
Week 1 – Away vs. Tennessee Titans
These are two evenly matched teams, but the Titans offense is slightly more explosive at home against a Cardinals defense with a depleted CB room. Cardinals lose, 27-23. Record: 0-1.
Week 2 – Home vs. Minnesota Vikings
Another tight one, but the defense does just enough as Kyler and the offense overcome Patrick Peterson and the Vikings defense. (Can’t believe I forgot to work a PP21 reference into the other predictions!) Cardinals win, 26-21. Record: 1-1.
Week 3 – Away vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
East Coast games are tough, but the Jags are rebuilding and the Cardinals have plenty of veteran leadership to avoid a bad loss here. Cardinals win, 30-20. Record: 2-1.
Week 4 – Away vs. Los Angeles Rams
We’ve obviously lost eight in a row to the Rams, and the streak continues after this road game against the now Matthew Stafford-led Rams. Cardinals lose, 28-19. Record: 2-2.
Week 5 – Home vs. San Francisco 49ers
Honestly no idea who the Niners’ QB will be in this one, but I’m not sure I buy the narrative that this SF team is going to be back to contender status. Redbirds take it at home. Cardinals win, 24-22. Record: 3-2.
Week 6 – Away vs. Cleveland Browns
East Coast games are tough, and the Browns are a true contender and handle the Redbirds at home. Cardinals lose, 31-20. Record: 3-3.
Week 7 – Home vs. Houston Texans
C’mon, this team isn’t losing to Bill O’Brien’s leftovers. Hopkins has a huge game as the Cardinals get over .500. Cardinals win, 31-16. Record: 4-3.
Week 8 – Home vs. Green Bay Packers
The Cardinals take on another contender but come up just short against the Packers at home in primetime. Cardinals lose, 30-27. Record: 4-4.
Week 9 – Away vs. San Francisco 49ers
Division road games are tough, and the Cardinals drop this one against a talented 49ers team regardless of who is under center (or in the shotgun). Cardinals lose, 27-20. Record: 4-5.
Week 10 – Home vs. Carolina Panthers
C’mon, the Cardinals aren’t losing at home to Sam Darnold (although the Cardinals have lost at home to much worse Panthers QBs). Cardinals win, 30-23. Record: 5-5.
Week 11 – Away vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Redbirds would love to go into the bye week a game over .500, but… division road games are tough and the secondary just can’t handle Russell Wilson. Cardinals lose, 33-22. Record: 5-6.
Week 12 – Bye Week
Week 13 – Away vs. Chicago Bears
A December road game in Chicago is never fun, but the Bears roster has as many or more holes than the Cardinals, so we get back to .500. Cardinals win, 27-21. Record: 6-6.
Week 14 – Home vs. Los Angeles Rams
Maybe wishful thinking, but I think we end the losing streak to the Rams this season. We take this one at home to remain in the NFC playoff picture. Cardinals win, 28-21. Record: 7-6.
Week 15 – Away vs. Detroit Lions
C’mon, the Cardinals aren’t losing to the Lions, even though nemesis Jared Goff is at the helm (and the Cardinals have lost several winnable games against the Lions recently). Playoffs? Cardinals win, 30-17. Record: 8-6.
Week 16 – Home vs. Indianapolis Colts
With their playoff lives on the line, the Cardinals win a tight one at home against a talented Colts team to remain in the hunt. Cardinals win, 29-26. Record: 9-6.
Week 17 – Away vs. Dallas Cowboys
A 17-game schedule means some teams have 9 road games vs. 8 home games, a blatant inequity that victimizes the Cardinals this season. They lose control of their own destiny with this road loss. Cardinals lose, 34-31. Record: 9-7.
Week 18 – Home vs. Seattle Seahawks
This is a win and we’re in game, but the Redbirds fall short against a Seattle team playing for the NFC West title. We finish over .500 but out of the playoffs. Will that be enough to save Kliff Kingsbury’s job? Cardinals lose, 28-23. Record: 9-8.
I wish I had an answer to that question. My biggest fear for this season is for the team to finish above .500, maybe even make the playoffs and lose in the Wild Card round, and then Bidwill brings back both Kingsbury and Keim. Minimal progress isn’t enough. If this team isn’t a contender here in Kyler Murray’s third season of his rookie contract, both coach and GM have failed. And then comes the harder question of how much blame would be placed on our QB. I really, truly hope the team wins at least 10 games and makes some noise in the playoffs to rend all those points moot.
I just don’t see that happening, though. I’ll end by telling you what I told Seth:
9-8, 4th in the NFC West, miss the playoffs. The offense should be fine, but I don’t trust the defense. Too many injury-prone players and one of the worst groups of CBs in the league. We also play in the toughest division in football and have one more road game than home games (yet another reason why I hate the 17-game schedule). I hope Bidwill would clean house if we miss the playoffs, but maybe getting over .500 would be enough “progress” to give Keim and Kliff one more season, which would be horrible. Would love to be wrong, but this just doesn’t feel like a playoff team to me.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But what’s your story? Give us your official season prediction in the comments.