Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The schedules are set. The rosters are not. We can have some fun anyway by forecasting how NFC West teams might fare based on their schedules.
I'll start with the Cardinals. Predicting individual games can be rough this far out, but taking the schedule in sections can make the process a little easier. My initial expectation is for the Cardinals to win between eight and 10 games. Let's go with 9-7 for now.
My reasoning: I'm thinking Arizona probably heads into its bye week with a 2-1 record. I would favor the Cardinals against the 49ers in the opener and then I would give them a good chance at splitting the next two. If they do not win at Jacksonville, they could rally to beat the Colts in Arizona, sort of how they found a way to beat Dallas at home last season.
I see the Cardinals going 2-2 over their next four games (Texans at home, Seahawks and Giants on the road, Panthers at home). They could go 3-1, but I wouldn't automatically hand Arizona a victory at Seattle. The Seahawks played Arizona tough at Qwest Field last year under some pretty rough circumstances.
November sets up as a tough month for Arizona, with three of four games on the road, but I still see a likely 2-2 record for the Cardinals in those games. The Cardinals have beaten the Seahawks in Arizona every time since 2005, when Seattle fielded its Super Bowl team. And then it's reasonable to think the Cardinals could win at St. Louis in Week 11.
The final five games set up nicely for Arizona. The Cardinals get three games at home and a road game against the Lions. I'm thinking 3-2 sounds reasonable for that stretch.
Add it up and you've got a 9-7 record for the defending NFC champs. They get to 10 victories if they steal another game on the road, perhaps at Seattle or San Francisco.
I'm sure everyone agrees with every aspect of this mini-analysis, but I'll check the comments just in case. And here's the schedule for reference:
Cardinals Regular Season Schedule (all times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, SAN FRANCISCO 49ers, 4:15 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, HOUSTON TEXANS, 4:15 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, at NY Giants, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, CAROLINA PANTHERS, 4:15 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, 4:15 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at St. Louis Rams, 4:05 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, MINNESOTA VIKINGS, 4:15 p.m.
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 14, at San Francisco 49ers, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, ST. LOUIS RAMS, 4:05 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, GREEN BAY PACKERS, 4:15 p.m.