ON Thursday May 11th, the 2023 NFL Schedules were released.
When the Arizona Cardinals were 7-0 a couple of seasons ago, one of the team’s formulas for success, as prescribed by All-Pro safety Budda Baker, was to do everything they could to try to go 1-0 in the next game.
As most NFL fans know, making NFL game predictions at this time of year can be a fool’s errand.
There are a plethora of factors (injuries, momentum, surprise stars and sudden slumps) that from game-to-game and week-to-week can actually turn prohibitive underdogs into sudden favorites, and vice versa.
The most successful teams in the NFL are the ones who can adapt to the challenges that each and every game present.
On paper, the Arizona Cardinals’ Week 1 matchup versus the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland already has its fair share of intrigue.
ARI: The Cardinals are currently facing two grievances that have been forwarded to the NFL head office. The first was submitted by former head coach Steve Wilks (n conjunction with Brian Flores’ complaint with regard to the NFL’s unfair and disparate hiring practices of minority head coaches), then second by former team executive Terry McDonough. Both grievances cite abusive treatment of company employees, by the team owner and president, Michael Bidwill. As for McDonough’s grievance, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has assigned Former NBA chief legal officer, Jeffrey Mishkin to be the independent arbiter for the case. At this point it is uncertain, and is perhaps unlikely, that Mishkin will be able to complete his arbitration of the case by September 10th.
WAS: Daniel Snyder, who has been facing an avalanche of abusive and discriminatory workplace behaviors (for which back in November he was fined $10M and ordered to turn over the running of the team to his wife, Tanya) has recently sold the team to a group headed by Josh Harris, Mitchell Rales and Magic Johnson. for $6 billion.
ARI: This will be Monti Ossenfort’s first game as an NFL GM.
WAS: This is Martin Mayhew’s 2nd season as the Commanders’ GM.
ARI: Jonathan Gannon, 1st year head coach (0-0). As DC in PHI the last two seasons, he is very familiar with the teams in the NFC East. Here are the results of his 4 games as DC versus WAS:
- 12/21/21: 27-20 W (@ PHI):
High Pass: Gilbert 194; High Rush: Gibson 26; High Rec: McLaurin 51
- 1/2/22: 20-16 W (@ WAS):
High Pass: Heinicke 247; High Rush: Patterson 57; High Rec: McLaurin 61
- 9/25/22: 24-8 W (@ WAS):
High Pass: Wentz 211; High Rush: Gibson 38; High Rec: McLaurin 102
- 11/14/23: 21-32 L (@ PHI):
High Pass: Heinicke 211; High Rush: Robinson Jr. 86; High Rec: McLaurin 128
WAS: Ron Rivera, 12th season as HC, 4th in WAS. Career record: 98-90-2. Last year’s record: 8-8-1. Career games versus Cardinals (4-2 record):
- 9/11/2011: 21-28 L (@ ARI)
- 1/3/2015: Wild Card: 27-16 W (@ CAR)
- 1/24/2016: NFCCG: 49-15 W (@ CAR)
- 10/30/2016: 30-20 W (@ CAR)
- 9/22/2019: 38-20 W (@ ARI)
- 9/20/2020: 15-30 L (@ ARI
Interesting note: Ron Rivera’s first game as an NFL head coach was at Arizona.
ARI: First NFL game as OC for Drew Petzing.
His Browns (QB Coach in 2022) played WAS (@ WAS) last January 1st and CLE beat them 24-10: High Pass: Watson 169; High Rush: Chubb 104; High Rec: Cooper 105.
WAS: Eric Bienemy makes his debut as WAS’s DC. His Chiefs (OC in 2022) in Week 1 last year KC beat ARI (@ ARI) 44-21. High Pass: Mahomes 360; High Rush: Pacheco 62; High Rec: Kelce 121.
ARI: Nick Rallis makes his debut as DC. Last year PHI (LB coach) split with WAS (details above in the JG section).
WAS: Jack Del Rio, 25th season as NFL coach, 4th season as WAS DC. As WAS DC he’s split with ARI (details above in the Rivera section).
2022 Defensive Rankings:
- Yards Per Game: 3rd (304.6)
- Rush Defense: 11th (113.3 ypg)
- Pass Defense: 4th (191.3 ypg)
- QBR: 19th (90.2)
- Sacks: 12th (43)
- 3rd Down %: 1st (31.9 %)
- Time of Possession: 1st (27:13)
- Points Per Game: 7th (20.2)
Current Depth Charts (per Ourlad’s):
ARI: How well the Cardinals’ offensive line can handle the Commanders’ outstanding defensive line.
WAS: How well 2nd year QB Sam Howell (or Jacoby Brissett) can run the Commanders new offense coordinated by Eric Bienemy against the Cardinals’ new defense coordinated by Nick Rallis.
ARI: New Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach Drew Terrell was the Commanders’ WR coach for the past 3 seasons. He should be able to provide insight with regard to the Commanders’ personnel and tendencies on both sides of the ball. Although the defense remains the same scheme-wise in 2023, the offense may be more nuanced this season with Eric Bienemy taking over as OC.
WAS: Eric Bienemy’s stamp on the Commanders’ offense could be somewhat of a departure from the Commanders’ run heavy offense under Scott Turner the last 3 seasons, particularly seeing as he has an impressive quartet of receivers in WRs Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel and TE Logan Thomas.
5th Year Option Decisions:
ARI: Isaiah Simmons —- declined
WAS: Chase Young —- declined
How many fans would have believed this when Young and Simmons were drafted?
Rookies to Watch:
ARI: T/G Paris Johnson, Jr., Edge B.J. Ojulari, CB Garrett Williams, QB Clayton Tune
WAS: CB Emmanuel Forbes, NCB Jartavius Martin, C Ricky Stromberg, T Braeden Daniels
Where the teams appear to be most vulnerable right now:
ARI: defensive line
The Teams’ Greatest Similarities:
Organizations plagued by dysfunctional workplace environments.
The Teams’ Greatest Disparities:
The remarkable difference with regard to the overall age/experience of the team’s coaching staffs.
Kudos to Cory who won my Twitter “Guess the Cardinals’ Week 1 Opponent” competition (he’s attending the game at FedEx Stadium):
Thank You @WBJMItch for the Key Chain giveaway. Excited to add it to the set. It’ll be coming along with me to all games I attend this year. #BirdGang pic.twitter.com/M4yiuaYBgR— Cory (@cory_cards) May 14, 2023
This Week 1 matchup on the road for the Cardinals has me feeling very fascinated.
How about you?
How excited are you for the Cardinals’ Week 1 game versus the Commanders?
Not very excited at all
Cant wait to see the Cardinals’ new white on white uniforms