4-down territory: Takeaways from Arizona Cardinals’ schedule release

May 13, 2021, 12:19 PM | Updated: 1:29 pm

Arizona Cardinals LB Chandler Jones waves to the crowd during the team’s Red and White Practice S...

Arizona Cardinals LB Chandler Jones waves to the crowd during the team’s Red and White Practice Saturday, August 3, 2019, at State Farm Stadium. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

The Arizona Cardinals got their road map for the 2021 season on Wednesday, highlighted by a Christmas Day matchup and a season opener against the Tennessee Titans.

But what do Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf think about the Cardinals’ schedule?

After extensive research, here are their four biggest takeaways from Arizona’s slate of games. It’s four-down territory.

First Down

Doug Franz: “My first down is going to be the most important one. Usually I save that for third down, but I just did it right off the ground after I researched every team that’s playing the Cardinals and looked at their schedule before they played the Cardinals. None of those teams are on a bye, meaning they never get extra rest, extra preparation to get ready for the Arizona Cardinals. Not only that, there’s only one team that plays the Cardinals after their Thursday Night game, meaning they get extra rest and a mini bye over the weekend. That game is against the Bears, but there’s a catch. The Arizona Cardinals were off entirely the weekend before, so even they out-rest the Bears.”

Ron Wolfley: “My first down of the four-down territory has to be the bye week. That’s right, Week 12 for the Arizona Cardinals. I couldn’t stand the bye week when I was a player, I especially couldn’t stand a bye week early in a season. The Cardinals have it Week 12, later than any other NFC West team and I love that. The later-in-the-year bye will give a much-needed break, I think, to the players that have actually stayed healthy and give them a reference point to make a final playoff push in the season. I love that late bye.”

Second Down

Franz: “My second down is speculation, not reporting. But I’m speculating because I do know Michael Bidwill is a very respected owner among NFL owners, that if he would have requested back-to-back East Coast road games, I believe wholeheartedly that they would have given him that. My speculation that leads to my second down is that he didn’t ask for it. … You could have mixed and matched to have East Coast time zone, central time zone on a back-to-back … and just stay back East Coast. They’ve done it multiple times in the past but it’s never worked very well for them. So it’s interesting to me they’re not doing that this year.”

Wolfley: “My second down … was about the season and the great ebb and flow to this season. They have no back-to-back games on the East Coast … they only have one point in the season where they play back-to-back road games. … They only have one point in the season where they have two home games together. Every other game is home, away, home, away. That’s a great ebb and flow to the season for the Arizona Cardinals.”

Third Down

Franz: “My third down is how much the Cardinals actually benefit by Week 18. I’m not saying anybody benefits from 17 games other than the pockets of the owners. But for years, it’s been really tough for the Cardinals to finish the season at home and it’s for a good reason. It’s the fact that the Fiesta Bowl worked really hard to help secure the stadium for all of us, and give them the credit. They need the stadium for 72 hours to get ready for the Fiesta Bowl, which normally is right smack in Week 17, the end of the season. And give credit to the Cardinals for sacrificing. … This year, because of Week 18 being almost mid-January, they finally get a home game to end the season, which could be a determining factor of getting into the playoffs.”

Wolfley: Where’s the fist fights? Where are they? Where’s the brawl? Well, look no further than Weeks 4-6. At L.A., home against San Francisco, at Cleveland. Those three games right there, they are gonna be fist fights. You look at the Rams, they like to run the ball, very underrated in terms of running ball. And they got the best rush defense, one of the best defenses against the run in the National Football League. The San Francisco 49ers? The exact same thing the next week. Oh, the Cleveland Browns, No. 3 in terms of rushing yards per game and No. 5 in rushing yards per play. They ball out as well. Very tough defensive front, that’s going to be fist fight No. 1. Weeks 16-18, that’s the brawl. Colts, at Dallas, Seattle to finish the season. There are your fist fights.”

Fourth Down

Franz: “My fourth takeaway is the fun of Week 4 for all of you that are enormous football fans. Road trip to Los Angeles. Leave on a Friday, see ASU at the Rose Bowl take on UCLA on Saturday and then go to SoFi Stadium for the first time as a Cardinals fan when the Cardinals take on the Rams. So UCLA, Rams on the road, same weekend for the Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State.”

Wolfley: “My fourth down of the four-down territory has got to be desperation time. Steve Keim said our goal was to get more physical this offseason, that being the Cardinals. Get more physical and bring leadership into that locker room right here. Guess what? The physical start to this season, [at] Tennessee, [home against] Minnesota. Look no further. You wanna see if this new physicality trend, this new culture is taking hold, you look at those two games right there, because the Cardinals will be tested.”

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