Background: Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arizona Cardinals fans before the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez
One thing Cardinals fans knew coming into last night’s announcement of the 2022-23 schedule is that in terms of 2021 records, the team has the NFL’s 2nd toughest schedule, one slot behind the 2021 Super Bowl Champion and NFC West division rival Los Angeles Rams.
There is a fascinating symmetry to the Cardinals first 10 games —- home, away, home, away, home, away, home, away, home, away.
Weeks 11 and 12 are technically two home games, the first being their MNF gig in Mexico City, which also happens to be their first of three prime time games.
The team’s first back-to-back travel weeks in Weeks 10 and 11 are short flights, which could help the Cardinals’ chances against two of their most dynamic division rivals. And the NFL may have given the Cardinals a bit of a bonus by scheduling their Week 12 short-week game at home.
The five weeks after the bye feature two prime-time games and three away games. Amazingly, all three of the Cardinals’ prime time games are at home.
Trying to make game predictions in May is like trying to predict whether the Dow Jones will be up or down on a given day months and weeks in advance. As we know, there are many variables that crop up for all NFL teams from week to week.
The Cardinals have adopted a “let’s make every effort to go 1-0 this week” approach to prepping for the games. That is very wise.
The question is not whether the Cardinals schedule gives them stronger chances to win this season, it’s whether the Cardinals will build the team chemistry, physical strength and mental tenacity to take each weekly challenge by the horns.
I think it is a mistake for Cardinals’ fans and the team to place any added significance to DeAndre Hopkins’ return after his six week suspension. From game to game, the team is best suited to adopt the “love the ones you’re with” mantra that, at times, worked very well for the Cardinals in 2021. There is no telling what kind of football shape that DeAndre Hopkins is going to be in, both physically and mentally, come Week 7 and beyond.
Hopefully, Hopkins’ six game suspension will go much better for the Cardinals than it did with Patrick Peterson’s.
What the Cardinals have accomplished this off-season, amidst all of the acrimony and uncertainty of Kyler Murray’s “give me my bag now” social media campaign, has been manifested by three steps:
1 —- doubling down on the the core or key depth players who helped the team win 11 games in 2021: QB Colt McCoy, RB James Conner, TE Zach Ertz, TE Maxx Williams, G Justin Pugh, WR A.J. Green, WR Antoine Wesley, DT/DE Michael Dogbe, OLB Devon Kennard, OLB Dennis Gardeck, ILB Ezekiel Turner, CB Antonio Hamilton, S Charles Washington, P Andy Lee, LS Aaron Brewer—-
2—- acquiring a half dozen of younger, talented, and highly affordable puzzle pieces from outside teams such as WR Marquise Brown (BAL, 24), G Will Hernandez (NYG, 26), TE Stephen Anderson (LAC, 29), DT Kingsley Keke (HOU, 25), LB Nick Vigil (MIN, 28), CB Jeff Gladney (MIN, 25) —-
3 —- drafting TE Trey McBride (All-American, Mackey Award Winner), OLB/DE Cameron Thomas (All-American, Mountain West DPOY), OLB/DE Myjai Sanders (1st Team All-AAC), RB Keaontay Ingram (3,393 rushing/receiving yards, 22 TDs at 5.8 yards per touch at TEX and USC combines), G Lecitus Smith (2nd Team All-ACC 2020), CB Christian Matthew (1st Team All-Gulf South Conference), LB Jesse Luketa (3rd Team All-Big Ten), G Marquis Hayes (2nd Team All-Big 12) —-
Do you think that the Cardinals’ off-season 3 Step approach has been keenly conceived or do you think has it been a tad too conservative?
I am fascinated by the approach, because, not only are the Cardinals trying to avoid overpaying the kind of older free agents who have burned them in the past, they are banking very heavily on the young talent they have been building the roster around.
Therefore, the Cardinals’ success this season is not as much a matter of the schedule as it is a matter of the team staying on schedule, day to day, game to game, and week to week, just the way head coach Kliff Kingsbury touts it.