Arizona Cardinals need early wins in 2019 schedule to counter late gauntlet

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Arizona Cardinals.

Game-by-game prediction

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss is predicting a 5-11 finish:

Sept. 8: vs. Detroit, Loss

Sept. 15: at Baltimore, Loss

Sept. 22: vs. Carolina, Win

Sept. 29: vs. Seattle, Loss

Oct. 6: at Cincinnati, Win

Oct. 13: vs. Atlanta, Loss

Oct. 20: at New York Giants, Win

Oct. 27: at New Orleans, Loss

Oct. 31: vs. San Francisco, Win

Nov. 10: at Tampa Bay, Loss

Nov. 17: at San Francisco, Win

Dec. 1: vs. Los Angeles Rams, Loss

Dec. 8: vs. Pittsburgh, Loss

Dec. 15: vs. Cleveland, Loss

Dec. 22: at Seattle, Loss

Dec. 29: at L.A. Rams, Loss

Strength of schedule: T-12th, .508


The NFL didn't do first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury any favors with his initial schedule.

In order for the Cardinals to make the playoffs, they'll likely have to win early, as a daunting, final five-game stretch awaits them. But to do that, the Cardinals will have to navigate long trips in their first four road games. By time Week 8 comes, Arizona will have already played at Baltimore, Cincinnati, the New York Giants and New Orleans -- with the Giants and Saints coming in back-to-back weeks.

Arizona's first NFC West game is in Week 4. It'll also face the 49ers twice in a three-week span. And five of the Cards' six division games come in the final nine weeks -- with the last two coming at the road at Seattle on Dec. 22 and at the Rams on Dec. 29.

To top off a grueling schedule, Arizona also has a late bye this year in Week 12.

Tough stretches

There will be two tough patches for the Cardinals divided by their late bye.

They're on the road four out of five weeks from Week 7 to Week 11, but their only home game during that span is a Thursday night matchup against the 49ers in Week 9. It's also likely that Arizona stays on the East Coast between the first two games in that stretch, Week 7 at the Giants and Week 8 at the Saints. After hosting San Francisco, Arizona is back on the road to Tampa Bay in Week 10, when they'll face former coach Bruce Arians for the first time since his retirement after the 2017 season. The Cardinals return from the cross-country trip to Florida, then head to San Francisco in Week 11.

Then comes the bye, which will be much needed, followed a brutal five-game stretch the end the season against the Rams, Steelers and Browns at home, and the Seahawks and Rams on the road.

Reunion Tour

Wherever the Cardinals look on their schedule, they'll find an opposing coach familiar with them in an intimate way.

Arizona's reunion tour starts Week 7 in New York against the Giants and defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who led the Cards' then-vaunted defense from 2015-17. Three weeks later, in Tampa, Arizona faces Arians, who mostly rebuilt his staff from his Cardinals years on the Gulf Coast.

In Week 15, former long-time Cardinals assistant Freddie Kitchens returns to Arizona as the Browns' head coach. His last job with the Cards was coaching star running back David Johnson.

There's more. In Week 2, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs returns to Baltimore where he played for 16 seasons. Kingsbury will face his long-time friend and coaching comparison, Rams coach Sean McVay, twice -- the first time in Week 13 and again in the season finale.