Earlier on Tuesday, the NFL released its 2011 schedule, assuming that there will be games played this season. As such, we also now know, not only the opponents and whether they will be in Glendale or on the road, what the Cardinals 2011 schedule looks like exactly.
To start off, the Cardinals start and end the season at home. Coach Ken Whisenhunt likes that. It is only the third time since moving to Arizona that the team has opened the season at home. With the season finale at home against division rival Seattle Seahawks, they potentially could have a deciding game for the playoffs at home, where in such games the Cardinals have been very good.
Arizona closes the season favorably, with four out of the last five games at home. That will be great for the stretch run, but it means that there is a rough spot. that would be the Weeks 8-12, where the team must play four of five games on the road with trips to Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Louis.
It has been noted that six of the teams (in eight games) on the Cardinals' schedule (Seahawks 2x, Panthers, Vikings, Bengals, Redskins, 49ers 2x) have quarterback questions. However, as of right now, that difference is all but eliminated because the Cardinals themselves have major quarterback issues.
A reason for concern for the Cardinals is the start time for their road games. Rather than getting the 1PM local time kickoff, they have three that kick off at 10AM and three that start at 11AM locally. This time slot has been bad news for the Cardinals historically.
Based on 2010 records, the Cardinals once again have the weakest schedule in the league. That really means nothing so far because those bad teams from 2010 are going to try and make improvements. Also, the fact that six of their games are against their NFC West foes skews that. Every team in the division last year was under .500. Add the Panthers to the list of opponents and you have yourself a group of teams with a collectively terrible record. They certainly will have formidable opponents in the Ravens, Steelers, Eagles and Giants. The Cowboys will likely recover and be solid as well.
We really should not be surprised that the Cards do not have any prime time games, although they have had one every year recently since 2004. But after the laugher that was the Monday night 49ers game (remember Derek Anderson?), it appears that the league is sitting back and changing the premiere NFC games to Rams/Seahawks.
What else do we learn about the schedule? Mostly we realize that it is way early to be talking this much about it. But with the lockout eliminating free agency and trades, that is all we have. All that is left now is to end the disputes and get a deal signed.