The Arizona Cardinals' 2021 regular-season schedule looks quite balanced. The team plays three of its first five on the road but three of its final five at home. The Cards have one stretch of back-to back home games and back-to-back away games twice. They have opened as 2-point underdogs for Week 1 at 2020 playoff team Tennessee. One game to circle in particular: Week 7 vs. Houston, which will be important for ex-Texans DeAndre Hopkins and JJ Watt. There are three prime-time games on the slate, all in the desert -- including Christmas night vs. Indianapolis.
Arizona hasn't made the playoffs or finished with a winning record since losing in the NFC Championship Game following the 2015 season, but the Cards are clearly going all-in for the 2021 campaign around rising star quarterback Kyler Murray. After earlier adding former Pro Bowlers such as center Rodney Hudson, receiver AJ Green and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Watt, the team added another big name in running back James Conner. Arizona has an Over/Under win total of 8 this year, which seems a bit low.
The 2020 Cardinals finished 8-8 – they were 6-3 at one point and competing for the NFC West title but struggled down the stretch. A Week 17 loss at the Los Angeles Rams kept Arizona from the NFC's final wild-card spot.
Once the Cards were able to lure Watt to the desert, other players have followed. Green signed a one-year deal to pair with Hopkins and essentially replace future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. An argument could be made that Hudson is the most important of the group as the three-time Pro Bowl could be the NFL's best center and is still just 31; Arizona got him in a trade with the Raiders. Hudson's 93.6 pass-blocking grade since 2015 is first among all centers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers opted not to bring back Conner, who essentially replaces Kenyan Drake (signed with Raiders) and will form a 1-2 punch in the backfield with Chase Edmonds – he is probably better suited to a pass-catching role as it is. Conner reunites with Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon, who was his position coach in Pittsburgh in 2017 and 2018.
Conner's best season was in 2018 when he was named to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, tied for the third most in the NFL that season, and catching 55 passes for 497 yards and a touchdown in 13 games. Staying healthy has always been Conner's problem.
Let's not also forget that Arizona upgraded at kicker with former Detroit Lion Matt Prater. He is the record-holder for the longest field goal in league history: 64 yards against Tennessee in 2013. Prater additionally holds league records for: most career field goals of 50 or more yards (59), consecutive made field goals of 50 or more yards (14) and consecutive field goal conversions of 55 or more yards (7).
Arizona's 2021 schedule ranks as tied for the 13th-toughest in the NFL as its 17 opponents – the added 17th was a trip to Cleveland – were a combined 138-134-0 last season.
Arizona Cardinals trends/William Hill Sportsbook odds
- 2020 record: 8-8 (7-9 against the spread, 7-9 Over/Under)
- 2021 strength of schedule rank: 13th-toughest (opponents' combined winning percentage of .507)
- 2021 Over/Under win total: 8.0
- SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 9.0
- Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +4000
- To win NFC: +1600
- To win NFC West: +550
- To make playoffs: No -230, yes +190
- NFL MVP odds: Kyler Murray +2000, DeAndre Hopkins +10000
Arizona Cardinals Schedule
Week 1 at Tennessee Titans: Cards have covered three straight games at Titans dating to Houston days
Week 2 vs. Minnesota Vikings: Vikings have dropped their past two at the Cardinals, last in 2015
Week 3 at Jacksonville Jaguars: Just three trips to Jacksonville for Arizona, which is 2-1 SU & ATS
Week 4 at Los Angeles Rams: Arizona has dropped its past three at the Rams, going 0-2-1 ATS
Week 5 vs. San Francisco 49ers: Niners handed the Cards a crushing late-season home loss last year, 20-12
Week 6 at Cleveland Browns: Matchup of former Oklahoma QB Heisman winners in Kyler Murray vs. Baker Mayfield
Week 7 vs. Houston Texans: Houston has made only two visits to desert and lost them both, last in 2013
Week 8 vs. Green Bay Packers (TNF): Pack's first regular-season visit since 38-8 loss in 2015
Week 9 at San Francisco 49ers: Cards' only road loss in past six at Niners was 36-26 in 2019
Week 10 vs. Carolina Panthers: Carolina last visited in 2019 and won 38-20 as a short underdog
Week 11 at Seattle Seahawks: Arizona's five-game ATS road win streak in series ended in 28-21 loss last year
Week 12 BYE
Week 13 at Chicago Bears: Chicago has lost (0-2 ATS) past two at home in series, last in 2015
Week 14 vs. Los Angeles Rams (MNF): Arizona is on a six-game SU and ATS home skid in series
Week 15 at Detroit Lions: Lions last hosted Cards in 2017 and Detroit won 35-23
Week 16 vs. Indianapolis Colts (Christmas night): Cards are 2-1 SU & ATS at home in the series since Colts moved to Indy
Week 17 at Dallas Cowboys: Teams played in Dallas last season and Cowboys were blown out 38-10
Week 18 vs. Seattle Seahawks: Cards snapped a seven-game home winless streak in series with wild 37-34 win last year
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