2008 Opponents with Stories of Their Own

For the Cardinals, the No. 1 storyline is the situation with Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner. For their 2008 opponents it's much of the same and then some. Amberly Richardson begins her look around the league, as she breaks down the top-storylines of each team the Cardinals will face next season, and how they will relate to Arizona come game time. Up first, Weeks 1-4.

Week 1: @ San Francisco 49ers

The Cardinals kick off the season against the NFC West 49ers. The big story is who will be taking the first snap for San Francisco that finished third in the division last season. Mike Nolan's squad has a three-way competition for the starting job at quarterback. The 2005 NFL Draft's No. 1 overall pick, Alex Smith, will be competing against Shaun Hill and J.T. O' Sullivan for the lead signal-caller position. The trio is also learning a new offense from yet another offensive coordinator that is passing through the Bay area.

This game will come down to defense. Arizona's defense isn't finished seeing changes, but has the upper hand with a fluctuating 49ers offense that held a 5-11 record in 2007.

Week 2: vs. Miami Dolphins

After tacking on just a single win last season, the Dolphins are beginning a new era in their organization. Those buying tickets to the Bill Parcells' show, will find the puppet master looking to have offensive lineman Jake Long (No. 1 overall selection) protect one of the three quarterbacks they have on staff. The Dolphins have second-round choice Chad Henne, free agent acquisition Josh McCown and/or 2007's second-round pick John Beck.

The Cardinals should be able to get these first-two games in the bag. The offense has no reason to not be clicking on all cylinders, so this matchup has a good chance of, again, coming down to Arizona's defense.

Week 3: @ Washington Redskins

The Cardinals take on the NFC East this year, which is going to be a thorn in their thighs. The Redskins will be up first. Their 9-7 record was good for a fourth-place finish in the group. The big storyline for Washington is new head coach Jim Zorn who will be switching the team to the West Coast offense. It will be difficult for challengers to predict how the Redskins will adapt to their new coach, their new system and how QB Jason Campbell will lead the team.

Arizona is lucky it doesn't face the Redskins until week three when they can watch two weeks of film to watch. They play the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints before the Cardinals.

Week 4: @ New York Jets

With a 4-12 record the Jets took second in the AFC East, behind the 16-0 New England Patriots. Coach Eric Mangini got a key new addition to his coaching staff in Bill Callahan who will focus on improving the offensive line. Like most of the Cardinals' schedule, the Jets have a quarterback battle going on, this time with Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens. The Cardinals will see former teammate Calvin Pace in green. The Jets offense shouldn't show Arizona's defense any problems. The Jets' defense is new, improved and ready to shutdown Matt Leinart.

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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