Early divisional games will dictate Cardinals' season

The Cardinals face the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers within the first five weeks. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The NFL has released its 2018 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Arizona Cardinals.

Breakdown: The NFL didn’t do any favors for new Cardinals coach Steve Wilks. After a start that could see Arizona going 2-1, the rest of the schedule will be a grind with a few points of relief thrown in. Arizona has three divisional games by Week 5, which could make or break its chances at the playoffs by the first week of October. Two home games followed by a bye in Week 9 will provide needed rest ahead of a hefty second half that includes five road trips in eight weeks. Their final five games, however, against Green Bay, Detroit, Atlanta, the Rams and Seattle will be a slugfest.

West Coast is the best coast: As the Cardinals spend the early part of their season adjusting to Wilks and two new coordinators, they won’t have to worry about transitioning to new styles while preparing their bodies for road trips. Arizona plays its first five games in the Pacific time zone before a trip to Minnesota in Week 6, and then returns to the desert for two more home games and the bye in Weeks 7-9.

Divisional bookends: By Oct. 7 (or Week 5), the temperatures will still be in the 90s and the Cardinals will have a good look at how they’re faring in the now-vaunted NFC West because by then they will have played their first round of divisional games. That could make or break Arizona’s season. And, depending on how the rest of the year goes, finishing with a home game against the Rams and a season-finale in Seattle, could either put the rubber stamp on another season out of the playoffs or vault Arizona into a date with the postseason.

Strength of schedule: T-8th, .520

Cardinals' Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, Washington, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, Chicago, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, Seattle, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.

  • Week 7: Thursday, Oct. 18, Denver, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 9: BYE

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, Oakland, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, Detroit, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.