Down the Stretch: Will Arizona Rise or Fall?

What does the rest of Arizona's regular season schedule look like? What are the most intriguing matchups? How will the Cardinals finish? Andy Bishop answers all these questions and predicts each game's outcome.

Ten weeks into the 2009 schedule the Cardinals look poised for another NFC West title. They recently beat Seattle at home to sweep the season series and they hold a two game lead over a seemingly mediocre San Francisco team.

The Cardinals remaining schedule definitely fits into the easy category—their opponents having a combined record of 23-40. As long as Arizona continues to play to the level it's capable of, it should have no problem securing a division title. Here is a look at each game.

Week 11: Arizona @ St. Louis

This is a classic trap game. The heavily-favored Cardinals meet a Rams team desperate for a victory. Arizona is 5-0 on the road this year and is far more talented than St. Louis. They should win this game easily. A good balance of Wells/Hightower and the passing game will do the trick.

Let's not forget that the Rams almost pulled off an upset against the undefeated Saints last week. St. Louis has to consistently feed the ball to Steven Jackson and force Warner into some turnovers if it wants to have any chance at winning.

Prediction: Warner continues his solid work on the road, having a field day in the dome he called home for six years.

Cardinals 31, Rams 17

Week 12: Arizona @ Tennessee

Four weeks ago, this game would have seemed like cake for the Cardinals. Insert the Vince Young factor, however, and things change. Along with the dynamic Chris Johnson, Young has led the Titans to three straight victories in which the offense has averaged 35 points a game. The defense is playing better also. This is still a good matchup for Arizona. Warner should have a good day against a Titans' secondary ranked 31st in the league. And it's another game on the road, a place the Cardinals are extremely comfortable playing this year.

Prediction: Arizona sneaks one out in a very tough environment at LP Field. The Cardinals end any remaining hope Tennessee has of making the playoffs.

Cardinals 23, Titans 20

Week 13: Minnesota @ Arizona

This is the marquee matchup. If Arizona can knock off the Vikings, it has a chance at securing a first-round bye for the playoffs. The task won't be easy as Minnesota has an offense led by Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson, and a defense that leads the league in sacks.

The Cardinals will likely have trouble establishing a ground game a will have to rely on Warner. Arizona's talented receiving corps should have a productive game against the Viking's 23rd ranked pass defense. At the same time, this will give the pass rush plenty of opportunities to get to Warner.

Prediction: Favre just betters Warner in a matchup of two future Hall of Famers. The Cardinals continue their struggles at home.

Vikings 34, Cardinals 28

Week 14: Arizona @ San Francisco

By this time, San Francisco could be completely out of the division picture. But if they aren't, Arizona must win this game. They can't afford another loss to the 49ers, and the resulting momentum it could give such a team down the stretch. After starting 3-1, San Francisco has dropped back to reality. Alex Smith usually gives them the best chance to win, but is prone to make mistakes. The Cardinals must create turnovers. San Francisco will rely on Frank Gore to take the pressure off Smith and slow the game down.

The Cardinals know the Niners and how to exploit their soft defense. They had trouble doing this in the first meeting this season, but there is a much better chemistry and flow to Arizona's offense now.

Prediction: The Cardinals get revenge on their division rivals and essentially wrap up the division crown.

Cardinals 24, 49ers 13

Week 15: Arizona @ Detroit

The Cardinals will be on the road for the fourth time in five games when they take on the lowly Lions. This could take a toll on Arizona, but because it's the Lions, they should be fine. While Detroit does possess some weapons on offense, the more experienced Cardinals' defense has the edge. Arizona will bring the pressure on rookie Matthew Stafford.

On offense, Warner and Co. will light it up against the league's 32nd ranked defense.

Prediction: The Cardinals could come out sluggish in game that might not mean much, but they'll get their act together. Beanie Wells has his first 100-yard rushing day.

Cardinals 28, Lions 14

Week 16: St. Louis @ Arizona

For the second week in a row, Arizona gets to play one of the worst teams in the league. This one will be a blowout, especially if the Cardinals still have something on the line.

All Arizona has to remember for this game: stop Stephen Jackson and you're fine.

Prediction: From the get go, Arizona shows just how superior they are to this division opponent.

Cardinals 35, Rams 10

Week 17: Green Bay @ Arizona

This has a chance to be a very good game. The Packers ought to be fighting for a playoff spot, and Arizona could be vying for a first-round bye.

Green Bay has the worst offensive line in the league and Arizona has to take advantage of this. Aaron Rodgers is a rising star, but pressure should limit his effectiveness.

The Packers possess a great team defense and will make Arizona's offense work to put points on the board.

Prediction: With a division title already in hand and no chance of getting a first-round bye, the Cardinals rest their starters for a least a half. Green Bay, fighting for its playoff life, gets it done.

Packers 27, Cardinals 17


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