The best part about making predictions in April is that they almost never hold up come September. I initially predicted Arizona to be 9-7 and lose to St. Louis twice. Well, things change. The Cardinals added running back Chris Johnson and tight end Jermaine Gresham to the roster, both of whom will likely have a significant impact late in the season. But with how well the defensive front seven has been playing, coupled with how fast the secondary has looked, two games swung in the Cardinals' favor. It’ll be up the offense, however, to make sure those games are won.
Here’s a revised game-by-game prediction of this year’s Arizona Cardinals schedule:
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, New Orleans, 4:05 p.m. ET
Arizona still isn’t pleased Seattle traded for former Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, but with much uncertainty at inside linebacker, the Cardinals are thrilled they won’t have to face the Saints with Graham. This one might be rocky with injuries and suspensions impacting the offensive line but the Cardinals will get through it. Cardinals 31, Saints 20. Record: 1-0.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Chicago, 1 p.m. ET
With how well the Cardinals’ defense has looked this fall, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler doesn’t scare anyone. Arizona may struggle in Soldier Field simply because it’s a road game, but the offense will continue to figure out how to run without 40 percent of its offensive line. Cardinals 24, Bears 16. Record: 2-0.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, San Francisco, 4:05 p.m. ET
There’ll be a lot of frustration taken out by the Cardinals in this game. With all of San Francisco’s off-field issues catching up to it, Arizona will roll. This will, however, be a good test for new Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who’ll be scheming to defend a mobile quarterback for the first time as the man in charge. Cardinals 27, 49ers 10. Record: 3-0.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, St. Louis, 4:25 p.m. ET
Without right tackle Bobby Massie and left guard Mike Iupati, the Cardinals’ offense has looked downright brutal at times. But both are expected back by Week 4, which means quarterback Carson Palmer will get the protection he’ll need against one of the toughest defensive lines in the league. But both offensive linemen will still be rusty, and the Rams’ front seven will overwhelm the Cardinals’ offensive line. Arizona’s defense, however, will stifle Rams quarterback Nick Foles and the offense to the point of suffocation. Rams 17, Cardinals 10. Record: 3-1
Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 11, at Detroit, 4:05 p.m. ET
Arizona likes playing the Lions, having won the last five meetings. This will be six in a row. Calvin Johnson will have a big day but Jerraud Powers will shut down the Lions’ No. 2 receiver. The Cardinals' offense will pick up steam and light up the Lions' secondary. Cardinals 38, Lions 27. Record: 4-1.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET
This is the game Bruce Arians has circled on his schedule: his return to Pittsburgh. Facing Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell will be the Cardinals defense’s toughest task to date. But it’ll also be what cements the defensive line as one of the best in the game. In the long run, however, Ben Roethlisberger will get the best of his former coordinator in what will likely be the most emotional game of the season. Steelers 17, Cardinals 14. Record: 4-2.
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 26, Baltimore, 8:30 p.m. ET
It’s Monday Night Football. At home. The Cardinals will come to play on national TV, and the defensive line will take advantage of a weak running game and make Joe Flacco’s night miserable. Cardinals 29, Ravens 17. Record: 5-2.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, at Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET
Armed with confidence after winning on Monday night, the Cardinals will use the short week to have a focused game plan against a team that will be in the middle of a tailspin. This will also be another emotional game for Arians -- although not as much -- since he’s returning to another spot he coached at for a while. This will also be a reunion for former Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby. Cardinals 35, Browns 14. Record: 6-2.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, at Seattle, 8:30 p.m. ET
If the Cardinals’ defensive line thought Bell was tough, they know they haven’t experienced anything yet. Facing Marshawn Lynch will be a battle of the league’s best running back against the league’s best rush defense. But the difference in this game will be the outside linebackers, who’ll set the edge and contain Lynch. But it still won’t be enough for quelling Beast Mode. Seahawks 27, Cardinals 24. Record: 6-3.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, Cincinnati, 4:05 p.m. ET
With a week to get over the Seattle loss, the Cardinals will regroup against the Bengals led largely by Carson Palmer, who’ll be facing the team that drafted him. Palmer might be as focused as he will be all season. Cardinals 31, Bengals 20. Record: 7-3.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m. ET
Even though nine weeks will have passed between matchups, the Niners won’t have improved enough under first-year coach Jim Tomsula to win an important division game, even at home. Cardinals 17, 49ers 10. Record: 8-3.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, at St. Louis, 1 p.m. ET
This game won’t be like the first Cardinals-Rams game. The Cardinals’ offensive line will have been playing healthy and together for weeks at this point, so the Rams’ tough defensive front won’t be as much of a nuisance as it was in Week 4. By this point, the Cardinals are rolling. Cardinals 24, Rams 14. Record: 9-3.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 10, Minnesota, 8:25 p.m. ET
This will be a close call with Arizona coming off a short week and facing a mobile quarterback and one of the best running backs in the league. The Cardinals will struggle to contain Adrian Peterson, but they’ll have no problem with the rest of the team. Cardinals 24, Vikings 21. Record: 10-3.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. ET
Even though they’ll have the long weekend to rest up before preparing for the Eagles, the Cardinals will be facing another fast team, and Arizona’s old legs won’t be able to keep up. In the cold, and possibly snow, the Cardinals won’t be able to get their tires rolling fast enough to overcome the Eagles’ rapid substitution, even in sub-prime conditions. Eagles 27, Cardinals 20. Record: 10-4.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, Green Bay, 4:25 p.m. ET
Aaron Rodgers will be masterful, knowing that seeding is on the line in what will be flexed into the Sunday night spot because of how meaningful of a game it’ll be to the playoff picture. Without Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson on the field, the Cardinals won’t have to worry about the deep game, letting Bettcher use his penny package to swarm Rodgers, who’ll combat the rush like a reigning MVP can. Packers 34, Cardinals 21. Record: 10-5.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, Seattle, 4:25 p.m. ET
Sunday afternoon. In the desert. Under the roof (most likely). For all the marbles. The NFC West will come down to this game, and the Cardinals won’t let Seattle leave without a fight -- one they’ll win. After losing two straight, Arians will concoct a game plan that’ll have Arizona scoring at a rapid rate. Cardinals 38, Seahawks 17. Record: 11-5.