2018 Arizona Cardinals game-by-game predictions

This season will be a learning curve for the Arizona Cardinals under new coach Steve Wilks and his staff. The offense will have to figure out Mike McCoy’s playbook and the defense will have to adapt to Al Holcomb’s scheme. That may take weeks, if not the whole season, and this isn’t the year to have to figure it out on a weekly basis.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, vs. Washington Redskins, 4:25 p.m. ET

The first game of the Wilks era will be at home and result in a win, primarily because Washington will have to fly cross-country, playing three hours behind the players' body clocks as both teams try out new quarterbacks. But the home-field advantage will hold true for the Cardinals in the season opener. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m. ET

It won’t take long for the Cardinals to get a taste of the Rams’ improved defense. Seeing L.A. this early will be a good measuring stick for the Cardinals, who can gauge their progress under a new coaching staff rather early. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, vs. Chicago Bears, 4:25 p.m. ET

It’ll still be hot in Arizona, so that may be one obstacle for the Bears that Arizona can exploit. Facing a young second-year quarterback will be another. Arizona now has Mike Glennon on its roster and he can give them the ins and outs of Mitchell Trubisky better than anyone. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET

This won’t be the Seahawks of old after a slew of personnel changes drastically altered the roster, but it’s still Seattle and it’s still an NFC West game. Arizona’s 4-3 defense will get a good feel for its progress by facing QB Russell Wilson. Record: 2-2

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET

These aren’t your brother’s 49ers. Under quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who won all five games he started at the end of last season, the Niners are poised to return to the top of the West -- and the NFC -- and Arizona will find out it’s not easy to beat Jimmy G, as they already knew from 2017. Record: 2-3

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET

This will be the Cardinals’ first trip out of the Pacific time zone and it’ll be to a place where they hold an 0-5 record since 2006. One saving grace is that Sam Bradford has an intimate understanding of the Vikings, which could help. Record: 2-4

Week 7: Thursday, Oct. 18, vs. Denver Broncos, 8:20 p.m. ET

Arizona’s only prime-time game of the season will be at home, giving it the opportunity to rest an extra day without traveling. The return home will be good for the Cardinals. Record: 3-4

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET

The game before the bye is always a trap. Are players looking forward to the mini vacation? Or will they stay focused for one more game, especially at home? How the first seven games go will determine that but it’s still the Niners and still Jimmy G. Record: 3-5

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET

Refreshed and ready for the second half, the Cardinals will be facing a second-year quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who’ll be midway through his first season as a starter. It’s time for Arizona to overwhelm him. Record: 4-5

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18., vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. ET

Forget when the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers come to town, this will be the game that’ll see University of Phoenix Stadium transformed into the Black Hole -- especially with Raiders fans in Las Vegas able to make the quick drive or flight. And if the Raiders can return to their 2016 success under Jon Gruden, then Arizona will be facing a road game at home. Record: 4-6

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET

It’ll be an easy road trip for the Cardinals and their fans -- like the week before was for the Raiders -- but this will also be a winnable game for Arizona against a team that isn’t likely to find its groove, again. Record: 5-6

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET

Green Bay. In December. Good luck. The Cardinals will have to trade paradise for their parkas, and then face Aaron Rodgers. That combination doesn’t bode well. Record: 5-7

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Detroit Lions, 4:25 p.m. ET

By this point in the year both Wilks and new Lions coach Matt Patricia will be more than 75 percent through their inaugural head-coaching seasons. That may play a factor in how this game turns out, but it’ll likely have to do more with how Arizona can contain Matthew Stafford. Record: 6-7

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

A late-season, cross-country road trip is never fun, unless the team is flying high in the standings. But the Cardinals are 0-6 in Atlanta since 2004. That’s not flying high. Record: 6-8

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m. ET

By this point in the year, the Cardinals will likely be counting the days until their offseason begins and they won’t be looking forward to facing a Rams team that’s expected to compete for a Super Bowl title. This one could get ugly. Record: 6-9

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET

Ah, yes. The familiar season-finale in Seattle. It’ll probably be chilly, rainy and miserable. The magic Arizona kept recreating at CenturyLink Field under Bruce Arians has run out. Record: 6-10