The Cardinals’ fan base was shocked shortly after what many viewed as an overall successful venture by Arizona with the news a few days later that the stellar receiver had tested positive for an NFL banned steroid and would not resume.
Thus, the team will be without WR DeAndre Hopkins in the first 6 games of the 2022 NFL season.
Of course, this team made moves to secure Zach Ertz and AJ Green in the off-season and drafted TE Trey McBride as well as the 23rd overall pick for the Hollywood Browns, but the departure is still painful, and it leads to some questions:
What would your first 6 games without Hopkins be in Arizona in the meantime?
The Cardinals can really use some easy games during the first six. You need to stay afloat without a D-Hop.
– Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) May 11, 2022
Before I start with a look at the “best and worst” case scenario, let me make one thing clear.
I don’t think it’s feasible or feasible to anticipate singles matches before the schedule is announced. It’s also nothing more than an exercise in knowing that schedule previews and forecasts are nothing more than “on paper.” Reality does not always coincide when projected.
Watch: A tough competitor in the Patriots’ first week in the first week of the 2016 NFL season turned into what looked like a much easier game without Tom Brady (discontinued) and Rob Gronkowski.
Arizona lost it anyway.
Likewise, the Cardinals’ first-week game in 2021 against what looked like a tough team of Titans ended up as a picnic that they won by double digits.
With that said, there is a logical and analytical way to look at the first 6 games based on how the Arizona schedule has been in the last 4 years (fast food = skipping to the next horizontal base)
This has been the schedule for the past four seasons…
2018-2021 First 6 Cardinals Games:
|vs. WAS||against. The||@ SF||@ ten|
|@ LAR||@ Pal||vs. WAS||VS MIN|
|vs CHI||vs. CAR||vs DET||@JAX|
|vs. SEA||vs. SEA||@ the cars||@ LAR|
|@ SF||@CI||Tweet embed||vs SF|
|@MIN||vs ATL||vs. SEA||@CLE|
|1-5||2-3 (1 tie)||4-2||6-0|
The first thing to note is:
- Arizona has averaged about 3 home games and 3 road games over the years.
- Some of them were 4 out of 6 that opened in the house, and in 2021 it was only 2.
- But we have never seen a single home match or a single away match in the first 6 matches awarded to the team.
- Therefore, we can conclude that 3/3, 4/2 or 2/4 are the only three results of home/away matches.
Now, to the more complicated stuff: the difference they can face.
There are what I would call 5 classes, or types of games, and these would be what I think would be worth dropping as far as the “difficulty” of the cards, and also in order of importance:
- NFC West Divisions game (competition games vs. SF, LAR, SEA)
- NFC Division Games (Play NFC South this year)
- NFC Conference Games (Play a team in a teams division that ended in the same spot as you, so the 2022 Vikings/Eagles)
- AFC Division Matches (Play West Asia this year)
- * AFC Conference Game (Play a team in the opposite division, new since 2021 with a 17-game schedule – this year the Patriots are second in the East Asia region)
Regarding the difficulty, it is very easy to choose the hardest 3 types of games that will be against NFC West, AFC West and also against Bucs and Saints.
That’s not to say Eagles/Vikings matches will be overtly “easy,” but on paper these are the strongest teams as well as the ones the Cardinal has struggled to beat for the past four or five years.
Let’s break these down individually below to see how to approximate the averages for each type…
NFC West: 1 game guaranteed, maybe 2
The Cardinal has had 7 out of 24 possible NFC West games in the past four seasons, with an interesting twist. In 2019 and 2020, they only had one NFC West game each.
But… they had 3 of them in 2018, which is a little out of the ordinary.
The fact that Arizona only averaged about 2 games per season means that they will likely face one of the Rams, Niners or Seahawks, and maybe a second. They will not be playing San Francisco at home as the November international has been announced.
NFC section: 1 game guaranteed, probably 2
The average number of games played against an NFC division opponent was in Table 1 in 2018 and 2, 2, 2 in the other three seasons.
With the time we see the schedule split between home and away (3-3) for the first six games, I think it’s highly unlikely that Arizona will pull both the Bucs and Saints at home…most likely a mix of one Bucks/Saints home game And one far from the hawks/leopards.
Never say never, though… It would be very unlikely and unlucky to pull an extra home match that guarantees Brady and the Saints without Hopkins, but it is possible.
NFC Conference Discount: 1 Game (Almost) Guaranteed
Arizona has lined up to play the Eagles and Vikings this year, and in the past we’ve seen it consistently as Arizona has played one of those two teams in this category for the first six weeks.
2018-2021 These types of games were lined up as 1, 1, 2, 0, an average of one game in the first six weeks.
I can try to guess it’s going to be an early home Eagles game since they played the Vikings early last year, but it’s no use putting together so many puzzle pieces
AFC Zone opponent: 1 game guaranteed, maybe 2
Same odds as NFC West. The Cardinals will undoubtedly play one of the Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders or Chargers in their first 6 matches without DeAndre Hopkins.
There’s a strong chance they’ll play two of them as well, as we’ve seen this happen twice in the past three years, Sensei and Baltimore playing in 2019 and Tennessee and Jacksonville in 2021.
The only time Arizona did not play a game against their AFL opponents that year in their first 6 games was the 2018 season in which they played NFC West three times.
I think while you might make up for one of the more difficult games without Hopkins if that happens (as you’d be guaranteed to play Seattle who isn’t very good on paper), you’d prefer it on hand for as many section games as possible.
This leaves us with…
The opponent in the AFC with the same record: perhaps one game
This was the latest batch of games to be added because we only saw it last year when the Cardinals faced the Cleveland Browns, who finished third in North Asia with Arizona in 2020. This year it’s the New England Patriots in a home game.
No one wants to say that Belichick is an easy or no-nonsense game. However… in the grand scheme of things, divisional and conference games are more important to making the playoffs and winning or competing for your division. So this one is pretty low on the list.
Now, where does that leave us?
Here’s what you’re likely to see as averages given over the first six weeks:
- 1 NFC West game, maybe 2
- 1 NFC South game, probably 2
- 1 NFC conference game, maybe 2
- 1 game in West Asia, maybe 2
- One match in the AFC Confederation could be at home
Now, for the best and worst case scenarios of pulling this information out…
So, the optimal schedule for the first 6 games that is sporty (assuming we don’t see an odd season where AZ 3 teams play NFC West or AFC West in weeks 1-6) would be a combination of:
Vikings on the way
– Hawks on the road
Tin in the house
– Hawks on the road
– Chargers at home
– The eagle is in the house
You avoid Brady, Mahomes, and Saints and don’t play the Rams and Niners until later in this score.
(For now, I’m still keeping in mind the Cardinals and Seahawks’ records in each other’s courts and will move them around because it seems inevitable almost every year!)
This is both possible and realistic, even if it is a lesser match at home.
Now in the worst case…
Let’s say AZ doesn’t get an easy roll as above but instead has a tougher tie in their division…along with two AFC West games:
-Brady w/ Tampa at home
San Fran on the road
– The rams are on the way
-Heads in the house
New Orleans at home
– Panthers on the road (assuming Matt Roll defeats Cliff again)
On the tongue of a man who was punched in the intestines,
This raw fee!
This tougher lineup seems to be possible, although I think Arizona will play the Raiders earlier in the season, they will likely end up with a contender in week seven or eight.
There might be some balance hopefully, however, for card fans, as I think there’s a good chance that Seattle will replace San Francisco and Oakland will end up replacing the Saints or Tomba Bay.
So I might think something like TB / SEA / LAR / LV / PHI / CAR They are the first six opponents. Not optimal…but not the worst case scenario here.
Remember when it comes to Arizona this year..they have a much stricter schedule.
So I’d be my “guess” for the opening six games above as Arizona finishes with four “tough” games to start the season.
Odds are that this will be the case anyway…
There are no “picnic” games in the NFL, after all
This is where the 3-3 start could be crucial for the cards, though difficult, because when Hopkins returns, that should provide a boost on paper for their team overall.
With the way the cards have done best with a hot start only to fade the stretch in the past few years, it will be where they need to make sure they can go 3-3 at worst and be able to balance the deck enough to hopefully achieve a reversal.
What are your thoughts on a potential cardstock drawing?
Sound out in the comments below!