Note: This column appears in the 4/24 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 4/25 issue of the Peoria Times
It’s been rather slow on the local professional sports scene around here lately now that spring training and the Coyotes are finished. But the NFL threw us a bone last week by releasing the schedule for the 2008 season. As everyone knows, the NFL landscape can change pretty dramatically in a year’s time, so looking too much into a team’s schedule four months before the season even starts is fairly pointless and presumptive. But it just so happens that my whole style is pointless and presumptive! So that’s what we’re going to do – look too much into the Arizona Cardinals’ 2008 schedule four months before the season starts. Because, it seems to me, if Matt Leinart can put the beer bong down for two seconds, that the Cards have a chance to do some pretty special things this year.
For starters, after two consecutive seasons in which the league put the Cardinals on national television -- with both games ending very badly, by the way -- the NFL has yet again placed its faith in the up-and-coming Cards, giving them a prime time national audience not once, but twice! In the same month! And not only that, but one of those games is a Thanksgiving night game in Philadelphia against the Eagles. If it’s anything like last year’s Thanksgiving night game, the 13% of the country that gets the NFL Network should totally enjoy it. But still. Thanksgiving! The Cardinals! There aren’t enough exclamation points to express my shock.
The other national game is a home Monday nighter against the 49ers (11/10). This is weird to me. The NFL must be under the impression that the Cardinals and 49ers have some sort of Michigan/Ohio State rivalry going on, as for the second consecutive season they’ll face off during a Monday night game, and open the season against each other. Of course, if these teams do have a rivalry, the 49ers have the obvious edge, as they beat the Cards twice last season, ultimately costing Arizona a playoff berth. This was bad, as the 49ers were horrible last year. The Cardinals might want to fix this. I’m just saying.
Please set your Cardinals' time pieces to "Prime time"
In looking at their schedule, the one thing that sticks out the most is how the Cardinals open the season. Before their October 12th home game against the Cowboys, they will face only one playoff team from 2007, the Redskins (9/21), who weren’t even really that good last year. In that five-game span, Arizona will also face three of the worst overall teams from ’07, including the 49ers (9/7), the Dolphins at home (9/14), and the Jets (9/28). The Cardinals should be 5-0 when they face Dallas. They won’t. But they should be.
If they are fortunate enough to be battling for a playoff spot come midseason, the Cardinals can be thankful that four of their final six games are at home. One of those is a Nov. 23rd matchup with the Giants, which will be New York’s first trip back to Glendale since pulling off the greatest win ever in the history of the world. I doubt the Cardinals care about this. But I am going to try my darndest to be there. And I am going to cry.
I have stared at their schedule for over thirty consecutive seconds. My conclusion is this: The Arizona Cardinals have a totally legitimate shot at 11 wins this season. Totally. Legitimate. 11. Not a joke. Seriously. 11. Of course, this is under the assumption that the Cardinals will be a good team next season. However, I have no reason to believe that they won’t be, because, as I understand it, their starting quarterback has been rigorously rehabbing in the steam bath.
THIS guy is in charge...what could go wrong?