Cards' Don't Need Help for SOS

Heading into 2008, Arizona finds itself on the bottom half of the league with its strength of schedule. A 12th-easiest docket, places the Cardinals with contests against six playoff teams and eight squads that finished .500 or better. For the first time in a while, the Cardinals will be in that .500 category. Arizona looks to the West for hope & the east with grudge, here is what to expect.

Click here for a schedule breakdown

What brings hope…

As always, the Cardinals will face each team from their division twice. The NFC West is far from competitive, so the Seattle Seahawks should be the only team to give Arizona a run for its money, and they have a tougher schedule than their rivals. The St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers round out the division with more difficult lineups as well.

While the league is predicated around moving all the teams toward the middle in terms of success, the Cardinals face some of last year's inferior squads. The Miami Dolphins brought home just one win, making their record the worst in the league. The Cardinals will face Bill Parcell's new roster and methods in week two.

Also on the schedule is the AFC East, which should dish up some soft competition. Facing the New England Patriots in week 16, is the only hard-hitting break in that group.

The Carolina Panthers (NFC South) and the Minnesota Vikings (NFC North) should be fairly even matches, at least on paper. The Panthers also finished second in their division, and the Vikings finished with an 8-8 record.

What brings fear…

The NFC East is going to be brutal. There is no way around it. The Dallas Cowboys (13-3), the New York Giants 10-6), the Philadelphia Eagles (8-8) and the Washington Redskins (9-7) will be the Cardinals biggest challenges.

Facing both Super Bowl contenders doesn't seem to be a walk in the park either. The positive side is that wins against either will put the Cardinals name on the map. Two prime-time appearances will put their games in lights.

Arizona will need to pull out all the punches early to be playoff contenders.

What to expect…

The Cardinals seem to have figured out some major missing pieces to its puzzle. The offensive line has made vast improvements last year, and the secondary is shaping up nicely. To win, Arizona will need to figure out where to place all the excessive depth in the defensive front seven, and Matt Leinart will need a smooth transition back to the starting signal-caller role. Other than that, the Cardinals should have no problems getting past the rival Seahawks. If they can pile up the wins in the NFC West, the NFC East won't look as scary.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.


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