The Arizona Cardinals have a tough beginning half of their 2013 NFL schedule ending with a break in week nine. After bye week, the Cardinals will face three teams that they haven’t played a regular game against in four years. Head coach Bruce Arians will see his former team on the field as an opponent. The last match up is one that Arizona has managed to win four out of the last five times, including the exciting conference finale that sent them to the Super Bowl in 2008. This will be the stretch of golden opportunity for the Cardinals to accumulate wins while their division rivals face off with each other and experience an arduous run for their money.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: 11/10/13 Opponent: Houston Texans
Last Match Up: 2009, Game 4 (28-21 home win)
Both quarterbacks racked up franchise and NFL statistics in opposite halves. Former QB Kurt Warner had his team up 21-0 and the second half inspired QB Matt Schaub with desperation as he rallied a tie game. An untouchable touchdown off an interception by Arizona cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie put the Cardinals back in the lead with just over two minutes left in the game. Defense bailed out a close call by holding the Texans to the one yard line three times in the final minute.
What to Know:
The passing, rushing, and receiving leaders from the last match up are long gone for the Cardinals. The Texans still have their veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson (who managed a career season last year) and quarterback Matt Schaub still leads the team. They have won their division the past two years aching for a Super Bowl run. The Texans first round pick, WR DeAndre Hopkins, is showing progress in preseason and will have time to settle into his team by week 10. Arizona may be in transition, but they will have nine weeks to sharpen team play before facing this Houston team that hasn’t managed to end their season as solid as they tend to start it.
Arizona QB Carson Palmer will step up when it counts the most but ultimately the game will play out in a similar fashion to the last match up. Defense will need to win this one. The focus will be containing the running game of Houston workhorse RB Arian Foster while taking advantage of any inconsistencies off the hands of QB Matt Schaub as he reaches out to his receivers instead.Week 11: 11/17/13 Opponent: @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Match Up: 2009, Game 2 (31-17 away win)
Former Jacksonville QB David Garrard had three fumbles, threw an interception, and was sacked four times. Arizona added to the total of nine fumbles with five of their own from four different players. Overall, it was a messy game for both teams, but QB Kurt Warner pepped up the Arizona offense while the Jaguars couldn’t have looked much worse. (Warner ended the game with a 131.2 rating.) Special teams contributed to the win with Calais Campbell’s blocked field goal attempt that Antrel Rolle took for an 83 yard score.
What to Know:
The Jaguars have a five year trend of averaging five wins, last season their only two wins were by five points each. Both teams are NFL examples of how important quarterback development is. The Cardinals are hanging their hopes on veteran QB Palmer with QB Drew Stanton waiting in the wings. The Jaguars have experienced frustration with third year QB Blaine Gabbert. Jacksonville snagged the number two draft pick with Texas A&M’s tackle Luke Joeckel as an instant starter. The talent on their team has been inconsistent, poorly led, and misguided, but (like Arizona) they are under new management and coaching staff with hopes to turn that around.
This could be another messy home game for the Jaguars, the opposite of the branding that new GM David Caldwell would like to see. Jacksonville offense to be decimated by Arizona defense between sacks, turnovers, and interceptions. Both special teams units to make key plays. Large margin win for the Cardinals.Week 12: 11/24/13 Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
Last Match Up: 2009, Game 3 (10-31 away loss)
Arizona made dire mistakes against a team that showed no forgiveness. Former QB Kurt Warner was under fire all night with a mean pass rush while former QB Peyton Manning lit up the field with perfect play calling and four touchdown passes. WR Anquan Boldin scored on a 10 yard pass for the only touchdown of the game for the Cardinals. Arizona made dire mistakes against a team that showed no forgiveness.
What to Know:
The playoff run for the Colts last year has been attributed to the “Chuck Strong” campaign, but it wouldn’t surprise too many to see the team return this season if they can show marked improvement early on. Indianapolis has widely advertised their focus is on protecting QB Andrew Luck. They also ranked low across the NFL on defense and need to improve their running game. The Cardinals sent CB Greg Toler to Arizona while they acquired QB Drew Stanton (in addition to a new head coach) from Indianapolis.
Both head coaches have something to prove and each team will play like they are trying for the title of “Most Improved”. Close game. The Cardinals to look good on pass rush and defense for the most part. Colts to play fiercely, showing improvements with more aggression on their 3-4 scheme.Week 13: 12/01/13 Opponent: @Philadelphia Eagles
Last Match Up: 2012, Game 3 (27-6 home win)
Former Arizona (and Philadelphia) QB Kevin Kolb had a rare and satisfying win with a rating of 127.4. QB Michael Vick struggled and was sacked five times while the lowly six points for the Eagles came from two field goals in the third quarter. Cardinal wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd caught a touchdown pass each and James Sanders logged his own touchdown with a 93 yard fumble return.
What to Know:
Cardinal fans have been plagued with uncertainties about what their new team will look like, but there isn’t any particular vision in mind when it comes to the 2013 Eagles. There are questions about who the quarterback will be, if Chip Kelly will transpire to be a winning NFL coach, and whether or not the defense will be pieced together by the end of the year. Philadelphia didn’t necessarily draft for need this year, but they did add some impressive talent.
Another outstanding game for Arizona defense. Cardinals to be more productive with less possession time.