September 13 vs. New Orleans Saints
By no means is this an easy contest to kick off the 2015 campaign. The Saints have a new look without TE Jimmy Graham and a handful of other key defections but QB Drew Brees is still capable of carving up the Arizona secondary and any NFL secondary for that matter.
The Cardinals struggled in pass defense a year ago and we’ll get a good measuring stick of where CB Patrick Peterson is after a down season in 2014. A lot of pundits are down on Brees and the Saints offense coming into this year, but we’re guessing they’ll still be a formidable unit.
Saints player to watch: WR Brandon Cooks
Cooks is as explosive as it gets and is expected to be Brees’ primary target now with Graham gone. Cooks will likely bounce around the slot and split out wide, so Arizona will probably take a committee approach lining up against Cooks.
If the Cardinals can limit the big plays by Brees and Cooks they should have an excellent chance of winning the season opener at the friendly confines of University of Phoenix Stadium.
September 20 at Chicago Bears
The Bears are a bit of an unknown with new head coach John Fox now at the helm. Fox is known as a conservative coach and we’ll have to see how that jives with the non-conservative Jay Cutler. Cutler has been a turnover machine during his tenure in Chicago and that could play right into the hands of the Cardinals defense.
Offensively, QB Carson Palmer and company should find room to move the ball against a lackluster Bears defense. The unit lacks a true dominate defender so if Arizona can stay balanced on offense, things should bode well for a Cardinals victory.
Bears player to watch: RB Kadeem Carey
Folks in the desert will be awfully familiar with Carey, thanks to his college career as an Arizona Wildcat. Carey takes a backseat to Matt Forte in the limelight, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Carey make a big jump this year. Fox is known for mixing things up at running back which should open the door to more opportunities for Carey.
The Cardinals will need to limit the success of both Carey and Forte while forcing Cutler into his customary mistakes to pull this win out this road win.
September 27 vs. San Francisco 49ers
The year’s first division game comes at home against the rival 49ers. Similar to Chicago, San Francisco will have a new look in 2015 with a new coaching staff in place. One thing that hasn’t changed is QB Colin Kaepernick, who will be the key to the 49ers’ season. Kaepernick has fared both good and bad against Arizona – struggling mightily last season on the road in Arizona.
The 49ers defense boasts many new faces including former Cardinal Darnell Dockett along the defensive line. We expect a decent drop off for the San Francisco defense – which has been solid over the past 5 years – and the Cardinals will move the ball at will if they execute their game plan effectively.
49ers player to watch: RB Carlos Hyde
RB Frank Gore has been a stalwart for the 49ers offense but his move to the Indianapolis Colts paved the way for Hyde to be the team’s feature back. Kaepernick will need help from Hyde to keep the San Francisco offense balanced in this game and all season long.
If Arizona can force the 49ers into being one-dimensional offensively, its chances of moving to 1-0 in the division will be very high.
Cardinals September Schedule Preview
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