Upsets happen all the time in sports, and they are very common in football. And, they would definitely help the Arizona Cardinals in 2013.
Arizona has a challenging schedule with lots of tough games. It went 5-11 last year and won’t have an easier road this year, as it will be playing the Falcons, Texans, Colts, Saints, 49ers (twice), Rams (twice) and Seahawks (twice).
These games seem hard, but they are winnable. Which teams can the Cardinals pull off upsets against?
Atlanta Falcons, October 27
After nine days of rest, the Cardinals will take on the Falcons in their eighth game.
In 2012, Atlanta escaped with a 23-19 win that was anything but well-deserved. Five different Cardinals intercepted Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, but the Cardinals only accumulated 70 passing yards. As a result, they lost the game.
Games like that aren’t going to happen in 2013. Carson Palmer, who will have more help than ever in Arizona, and Larry Fitzgerald will team up to lead a potent aerial attack, while Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington will allow the Cardinals to deflect attention away from the passing game with a stellar running game.
Atlanta plays the New York Jets in Week 5, a bye week in Week 6 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. Both of those games are at home, and neither is too hard. The Falcons should be able to win both without much problem, and that can definitely lead to a slip-up the next week. The Falcons were very inconsistent in 2012, and the same thing should happen in 2013.
And, with the crowd at their back and a much better offense to capitalize on Atlanta’s mistakes, the Cardinals will take advantage and upset the Falcons.
St. Louis Rams, September 8
In 2011, you would have been laughed out of town for calling a win over the Rams an upset. Now, it’s realistic.
The Rams went 7-8-1 in 2012, and they had the best record in NFC West play (4-1-1). In the draft, the Rams added Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, two playmaking wide receivers, to help out an offensive unit that could become one of the best in the league.
St. Louis has a stellar defense as well, and it has a serviceable quarterback in Sam Bradford. The Rams will definitely be in the playoff hunt, but the Cardinals will as well. Arizona beat the New England Patriots on the road in 2012, and they can definitely win this road opener.
Bradford and his new toys will have some trouble developing chemistry, but Palmer and Fitzgerald are veterans. Taylor and Ellington both have the tools to step in and make an impact in the running game immediately, and the same goes with Jonathan Cooper on the offensive line. The Cardinals won’t have any trouble playing together, but it will be harder for the Rams.
As St. Louis develops into one of the better teams in the league, there will be bumps on the road. Week 1 in the offense’s first year as a collective unit is a likely time to be one of those bumps, and the Cardinals, who haven’t lost their opener since 2009, will likely take advantage. Expect the Cardinals to come in hungry and come away with a big win.
Seattle Seahawks, October 17
Thursday Night Football always gives the home team a major advantage, and that’s definitely the case here.
Seattle will be traveling to Arizona in Week 6 for a Thursday tilt in the desert. The Seahawks, who will be coming off of a easier game against the Titans, will have a hard time getting prepared in three days and handling the road atmosphere. The Seahawks are a great team, but great teams make mistakes.
In 2012, the Seahawks went 3-5 on the road. Arizona took care of the Seahawks in the desert, and it could do the same thing in 2013. The defense won’t allow 58 points (which it did in Week 14), and the offense won’t turn the ball over as much. Turnovers led to a lot of Seattle’s points, and they won’t be getting a lot of those easy points with Arizona’s revamped offense.
The Seahawks will have Richard Sherman guarding Fitzgerald, but Fitzgerald can take Sherman. He will have good chemistry with Palmer five games in, and Fitzgerald, who caught four passes for 63 yards with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton in Week 1, will be able to catch more passes with Palmer. Russell Wilson is a good quarterback, but he is young and can be contained.
Wilson and the Seahawks had some games where they couldn’t generate much offense, and they only managed 16 points against the Cardinals in Week 1. Seattle isn’t invincible, and this is a perfect situation for them to slip up.