Greetings from about 35,000 feet. I'm en route to Arizona for the Cardinals' Week 4 game against the Miami Dolphins and thought this might be a good time to revisit the schedule.
Why Arizona this week? The travel decisions we make each week hinge on a number of factors:
Good matchups: Games featuring teams with good records generally trump games featuring teams with bad ones. A first-place team will usually take priority over a last-place team.
Doubling up: Games featuring two NFC West teams instead of just one can carry additional appeal.
Geography: Games played in NFC West cities often take priority. In these cases, I'll stay in town long enough to participate in day-after-game interview sessions at the home team's facilities. I'll avoid cross-country trips if possible to maximize efficiency heading into the next week.
Variety: In a perfect world, I'd see each NFC West team in person on a regular basis. That isn't as feasible when one team winds up being far more relevant than the others. I spent 2009 following the Cardinals disproportionately. Last season, the San Francisco 49ers took priority. Sometimes, the schedule doesn't cooperate.
Prime time: I'll always go to an "Monday Night Football" game featuring an NFC West opponent. The games are on ESPN, after all.
Arizona's 3-0 record and opportunity to go 4-0 for the first time since 1974 provided the strongest draw this week.
No team in the NFL has more thoroughly trampled upon outsiders' expectations. Who are the Cardinals and where are they headed? I didn't want to let another week pass without gathering additional evidence first hand.
This was especially true once we decided not to attend the Thursday-night game between the Cardinals and Rams in St. Louis next week. Traveling to St. Louis and back in the middle of the week would have wiped out our usual programming in exchange for a postgame column that probably wouldn't appear on the blog until well past midnight ET.
The challenge now becomes finding the right time to catch up with the Rams. They're heading to Miami in Week 6. I'll spend that week either in Seattle (New England) or San Francisco (New York Giants).
The Rams are home against Green Bay in Week 7 a few days after Seattle and San Francisco play a Thursday-night game at Candlestick Park -- a game I'll probably attend given that it's just a short hop down the coast, with direct flights running morning til night. The Rams then head to London for a game against the Patriots in Week 8. I won't be making that trip.
The chart shows NFC West schedules through Week 8. I've bolded and underlined games I've attended or plan to attend. I'll be heading over to University of Phoenix Stadium early Sunday to catch the other NFC West games before covering the Cardinals and Dolphins.