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There’s a rough road ahead for the Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians argues a call with head linesman John McGrath (5) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Between the time you’re reading this and the moment you sit down to watch Arizona take on ASU in Tempe, the Arizona Cardinals will in play in Glendale once.


I miss Fire Marshall Bill.  The Arizona Cardinals won’t need him to put out a blaze but there could be a smoldering pile of distractions on the horizon.  The Cardinals have officially entered the most painful part of their schedule.

The NFL schedule creates advantages and disadvantages throughout a season.  Having three of the first four games and three of the last four games at home is a major advantage for Arizona.  In the schedule rotation, this is the year the NFC West plays the “Norths” of the AFC and NFC.  The two best teams (Cincinnati and Green Bay) come to Arizona, another advantage.  A second advantage is the two opponents on the Cardinals’ schedule that differ from the schedules of the rest of the division (Saints and Eagles) are both having seasons below expectations.  One more plus is Arizona’s forced Thursday night game (every team plays at least one) is at home, so the Cardinals don’t have to travel on a short week.

In most ways to judge a schedule, the Cardinals have come out ahead, except for the present.  From Monday, Oct. 5th through Sunday, Nov. 19, Arizona hosts Baltimore on Monday Night Football and hosts no one else.  Forty-eight days: one home game.

It gets worse.  Mathematically, eight games are half a season and the Cardinals play the next eight games with six of them on the road. Three of the road trips are in the Eastern Time Zone and all three divisional road games are during this stretch.  The Cardinals return home from a week in Detroit, West Virginia and Pittsburgh to host Monday Night Football.  The problem is after hosting Baltimore, Arizona has a short week going into another Eastern Time Zone road trip to Cleveland for an early window kick time.

The misery continues because the bye week creates less of an edge it normally welcomes.  Usually the bye week creates an advantage against your opponent.  The Cardinals play the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday Night Football after their bye.  The Seahawks have their bye at the same time so the advantage is lost.

Finally, the Cardinals get only their second home game in the middle stretch of eight games and it’s against the first-place Bengals.  A tough and physical Bengals team is followed up with two brutally physical, divisional road games at San Francisco and St. Louis.  Even the light at the end of the tunnel (the three of last four games at home) starts auspiciously since it’s saying hello to Adrian Peterson on short rest as the Vikings come to Glendale on a Thursday night.

The amazing one-loss start to the season in 2014 was captivating and it won’t be repeated.  This vicious stretch will not be met with an eight-game winning streak — even 7-1 drips with too much hope.  If Arizona brings a 9-3 record to Thursday night football, the Cardinals will smell like a Super Bowl team.  My guess is the Cardinals are in a dog-fight for the division after this eight game saga sitting at 8-4.

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