2016 Arizona Cardinals game-by-game predictions

The Arizona Cardinals begin their quest for a berth in Super Bowl LI with a matchup against a team that knows how to win on the biggest stage: the New England Patriots. From there, the first half of the season will be defined by nationally televised games. The second half will be spent living out of a suitcase, with five road games in the Cardinals’ last seven.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. New England Patriots, 8:30 p.m. ET

This is the first time the Patriots will play against the Cardinals in University of Phoenix Stadium. The most recent time the Pats made the trip to Arizona was for Super Bowl XLIX -- with Chandler Jones. This time, they’ll be facing their former pass-rush specialist. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18 vs. Tampa Bay Bucs, 4:05 p.m. ET

Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter makes his return to the state of Arizona (he coached at Arizona State University for six years). second-year quarterback Jameis Winston will get an early taste of a top-tier NFC West pass rush. Record: 2-0

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25 at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET

Arizona’s first East Coast trip of the season will be cross-country to Buffalo. Luck struck the Cardinals with the game this early in the season: They won’t be playing in frigid weather or on a snow-covered field. Record: 3-0

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2 vs. Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m. ET

The battle for the NFC West begins here with the Rams, who most likely will trot out the No. 1 pick at quarterback. After a cross-country trip to New York, the Cardinals’ secondary would be pleased to feast on a young signal-caller. Record: 4-0

Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 6 at San Francisco 49ers, 8:25 p.m. ET

There’s no rest for the weary in the NFC West. Four days after hosting the Rams, Arizona is off to San Francisco for its first prime-time game of the season. A short week and Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense could be a recipe for disaster, but Arizona has seen Kelly’s scheme before. Record: 5-0

Week 6: Monday, Oct. 17 vs. New York Jets, 8:30 p.m. ET

Former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will return to Arizona as the coach of the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. This will be a matchup of one of the best offensive minds in the NFL, in Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, against one of the best defensive minds, in Bowles, who knows Arizona’s offense inside and out. With 11 days to rest, the Cardinals will be ready. Record: 6-0

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23 vs. Seattle Seahawks, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Cardinals will prepare for a Seahawks team without Marshawn Lynch for the first time since 2009. It’ll also be the Cardinals' third prime-time game in a row and their third game in 17 days -- enough rest to continue their season undefeated. Record: 7-0

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30 at Carolina Panthers, 4:25 p.m. ET

Everyone knows what happened the most recent time Arizona went to Carolina; the Cardinals lost the NFC Championship Game. This game won’t have the stakes, but it’ll be a chance for redemption for Arizona, which got embarrassed on one of the NFL’s biggest stages. Heading into their bye week with a cross-country trip, the Cardinals falter. Record: 7-1

Week 9: Bye week

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13 vs. San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET

With two weeks to gear up, Arizona will recover from its first loss of the season to find its winning ways again. Even after half a season in Kelly’s new, up-tempo offense, the Niners can’t get by Arizona. Record: 8-1

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20 at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET

Cardinals wide receiver and Minnesota native Larry Fitzgerald gets to play in the Vikings' new stadium before he retires. After two consecutive games of at least 120 yards against Arizona, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was held to 69 on a Thursday night last season. But he’s averaging 118.7 yards per game against Arizona in Minnesota. Record: 9-1

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27 at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

The Cardinals face a Falcons defender (Sean Weatherspoon) who spent last year defending the Cardinals’ offense in practice. This will likely be the second game of a week-long trip to the East Coast. If not, the Cardinals will be flying cross-country a day after Thanksgiving. Record: 10-1

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 vs. Washington Redskins, 4:25 p.m. ET

The last time the Cardinals hosted the Redskins with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, they won by 10. This week won’t be any different. Record: 11-1

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11 at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

Again, the Cardinals lucked out. Instead of playing in Miami in the blistering heat of early September, they’ll embrace South Beach at its best: winter. But the toll of the season will begin to catch up to 36-year-old Carson Palmer and 33-year-old Fitzgerald, as Arizona is in the midst of a brutal stretch of five road games in seven weeks. Record: 11-2

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18 vs. New Orleans Saints, 4:05 p.m. ET

Playing at home always rejuvenates the Cardinals. For the second straight season, the Saints will play at University of Phoenix Stadium, and for the second straight season, they will lose. Record: 12-2

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24 at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET

Playing in Seattle in the cold on Christmas Eve doesn’t bode well for Arizona's focus. The Cardinals will likely have the NFC West locked up, if not close to locked up, and they’ll be tired. Record: 12-3

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1 at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m. ET

This will be a homecoming of sorts for the Cardinals, who haven't played in Los Angeles in 22 years. But the Rams will still be the Rams, regardless of where they play or who their quarterback is. Arizona heads into the postseason with a win. Record: 13-3