The first quarter of the season is crucial, especially for a team looking to win their respective division. And with the first two games on the road, the Arizona Cardinals will look to start fast before their home opener.
The schedule makers seemed to have had a bone to pick with the Cardinals. Their first two games are on the road in the Midwest, then they will have the pleasure of hosting the Dallas Cowboys (13-3 in 2016) for their home opener on Monday Night Football. After that, it’s a home game against the rival 49ers.
The fan in me says they can easily go 4-0 during that stretch — but this is the NFL, and anything can happen to start the season (ask Patriots fans).
So realistically, coming out of that four-game stretch at least .500 will bode well for their playoff hopes.
But if there is anything that can said of this team, it’s that they take things one week at a time. And the focus this week is the Detroit Lions and making things difficult for Matthew Stafford. As our own Jim Koch wrote, the Cardinals would love to extend their current winning streak against the Lions.
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The Cardinals will be without money linebacker Deone Bucannon. Rookie Haason Reddick will get some work in with certain defensive packages. The big question is how often will Justin Bethel get picked on, as he will get the nod opposite Patrick Peterson.
The Lions are a pass-first team and would love to take advantage if they could against Bethel. Creating pressure up front with four or five rushers will help the secondary, as they look to get back to their ball-hawking ways. But I would also imagine defensive coordinator James Bettcher will dial-up some all-out, cover zero looks as well.
Matthew Stafford just received the largest contract in NFL history, and it was well-deserved. A poised leader, he will make things difficult for the Cardinals’ defense. Let’s just hope the defense can have another strong showing once again, as the last time these teams met, Stafford was bench after throwing three picks.