The Arizona Cardinals face an absolute gauntlet in 2022. According to the NFL, Arizona will have the second-most difficult strength of schedule this season, behind only the division rival and Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. In addition, the Cardinals will be without star-wideout DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games; the receiver is suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Facing a mixture of new faces, old foes, and some former friends, these are the Arizona Cardinals most difficult games in 2022.
With training camp right around the corner, Last Word on Pro Football is analyzing the most difficult (1-8) and easiest (9-17) games for each team. Let’s dive into the most difficult games that the Arizona Cardinals will play in 2022.
Check out the Arizona Cardinals Easiest Games of 2022.
Most Difficult Games on 2022 Arizona Cardinals Schedule
#1: Week 3 vs Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs propose the Cardinals most difficult games in 2022, but the nod has to go to the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Cardinals can beat the Rams; they proved that in Week 4 last year. However, a key factor to consider for Arizona is the absence of DeAndre Hopkins, who’s suspended for the first six games. Yes, the Cardinals can beat the Rams, but they couldn’t do so last year without Hopkins; he missed both losses against LA. So, not only do the Cardinals have to face a Super Bowl-caliber roster, one that added Bobby Wagner of all people, but they have to do so without their most effective weapon. The Rams undoubtedly have the best defense that the Cardinals will face without Hopkins.
Offensively, Arizona’s new-look interior o-line will see how they stack up against Aaron Donald, while Hollywood Brown, Arizona’s de facto number one, will likely draw the task of distracting Jalen Ramsey. There is no unwinnable game for this Cardinals roster, but this Rams game will undoubtedly be the toughest.
#2: Week 1 vs Kansas City Chiefs
Week 1 will see one of the Cardinals most difficult games in 2022. It will also be the first pro meeting between former Texas Tech Red Raiders, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Mahomes has faced the Cardinals before, but in 2018, before Kingsbury took up the reins in the desert. The Chiefs come to Arizona off the back of a weirdly-average season, in which, yes, they reached the AFC Championship Game. However, they didn’t look at their usual selves doing it. The Cardinals will face a Chiefs side that has lost two of its most essential players on either side of the ball, Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu. Yet, the Andy Reid-led Chiefs are still a threat as long as they have Mahomes; he’s going to improve after a down year.
Although this game will be headlined by Mahomes/Kingsbury, it will be defined by the ability of Arizona’s reinforced defense to contain Kansas City’s offense. In particular, the Cardinals will rely on their inside linebackers, Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, to blunt the effectiveness of Travis Kelce, who will be Mahomes’ top target in 2022.
#3: Week 10 @ Los Angeles Rams
Yes, it’s the Rams again. Nothing has perhaps contributed to Arizona’s nightmarish strength of schedule quite as much as having to play the division rival Rams twice. In comparison to the last game though, the Cardinals should have a slightly better chance in the second meeting.
A fully-stacked Cardinals side can beat the Rams, which, touch wood, they will be by this stage of the season. Hopkins will have returned and, three games into his comeback should be right in the swing of things. By this stage of the season, for the past few years, the wheels have come off for the Cardinals, which has usually meant that the later games have been projected to be more difficult. However, the likelihood of Hopkins’ presence, weighed against his confirmed absence early in the season, gives Arizona a supposed advantage down the stretch. No game against a full-strength Rams squad will be easy, but this second game will be comparatively less difficult.
#4: Week 16 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Weirdly enough, Tom Brady has never played at State Farm Stadium. He’s never really played against the Cardinals all that often either; his last game in Arizona against the Cardinals was at Sun Devil Stadium. However, this season, Brady is coming to town with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Christmas Day. When Bruce Arians went to Tampa, he took a bunch of ex-Cardinals coaches with him, including now-head coach Todd Bowles, and now-offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. Arizona’s Christmas Day clash will be somewhat of a homecoming, albeit without Arians himself.
Sentimentality aside, the Buccaneers still have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, as well as an impressive tendency for player retention. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will be catching passes from Brady, and the core of their Super Bowl-winning defense still remains. They’re not quite as stacked as the Rams, and they have a young, albeit reliable secondary, but the Bucs have THAT dude under center, and that’s always going to be a potentially game-wrecking factor.
#5: Week 12 vs Los Angeles Chargers
The NFC West picked a terrible year to be matched up with their AFC counterparts. The AFC West has attracted some of the biggest free agent signings this off-season, and the Los Angeles Chargers are no different. Los Angeles’ second team has paired standout Charger Joey Bosa with new pickup Khalil Mack, fielding what is arguably the league’s very best pass-rushing duo. Together with one of the league’s most versatile defenders in Derwin James, and a defensive-minded head coach in former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, the Chargers are one of the more underrated squads in the league.
On offense, the Chargers are now heading into their third season with Justin Herbert as the starter. He’s next up. Many analysts are lining Herbert up for the proverbial third-year leap seen in the likes of Mahomes and Josh Allen. Herbert has already been impressive and has all of the tools to test Arizona’s secondary, which, right now, looks to be running with practically the same group as last season. However, Jalen Thompson has proven his ability to combat the league’s best deep passing threats. This will be one of the most fun matchups of the season; two dynamic defenses facing off against some explosive offensive stars.
#6: Week 2 @ Las Vegas Raiders
Geographically, the newly-Las Vegas Raiders are Arizona’s closest NFL rival; the journey from Tempe to Vegas is marginally shorter than the trip to LA. Conveniently so, since the Cardinals face a schedule that has them travel the 11th furthest of all NFL teams. Another AFC West juggernaut faces the Cardinals in Vegas. Yet the Raiders might just be the most underrated team in the division. It’s a nice story that Kyler Murray got his college teammate back in Hollywood Brown, but so did Derek Carr. The difference is that his college teammate happens to be Davante Adams.
Add the presence of a Cardinals legend in Chandler Jones, and the second of Arizona’s AFC West clashes looks to be a bit of a banger to look forward to. Again, like many of Arizona’s most exciting matchups, the game projects to a be an offensive slugfest, with both teams boasting a tonne of weapons. The kicker will be if Arizona can keep pace without Hopkins, pitting Hollywood Brown against the production of Davante Adams.
#7: Week 15 @ Denver Broncos
Just when we thought we’d got rid of him, he’s back. Yes, Russell Wilson may be out of the division, but he’s not out of the way. Wilson will welcome the Cardinals to his new home at Mile High to challenge Arizona in their first non-divisional meeting. The Cardinals have shown that they can beat Russell Wilson over the years, but Russ has similarly proven that he can elevate a flailing Seattle Seahawks squad to victory. Now with a team flexing a dynamic receiving corps and, most importantly, a group of offensive linemen capable of not getting Wilson decapitated, the Denver Broncos quarterback will pose a sterner test than in his last years in Seattle.
The Broncos are the least of the AFC West teams that Arizona will face. However, that in no way means that they’re not an opponent to be wary of. Arizona’s secondary has proven effective against Wilson in the past. With Arizona’s former boogeyman boasting an improved offensive arsenal, though, the group will be tested.
#8: Week 18 @ San Francisco 49ers
Week 18. You’re battered and bruised. Not a good time to play the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona has shown to have issues against Kyle Shanahan’s domineering multiple-zone scheme in the past. If Arizona’s recruitment, or lack thereof, along the interior defensive line is any indication, then the Cardinals are set to have another considerable task in Santa Clara.
The timing of this game is, at this point, also set to be a factor. Arizona hasn’t been able to either stay healthy or productive down the stretch in either of the last two seasons. They haven’t looked good in either of their two previous season closers; they’ve lost both against the Rams and the Seahawks. Hopefully, the Cardinals can maintain their offensive production so that they’re still rolling in the back end of the year. This certainly projects as an offense that can evolve throughout the season. Right now though, that’s impossible to predict, and history says that the Cardinals will struggle in January. The Niners will be Arizona’s greatest barrier to making the playoffs, both as a division rival and their final opponent.
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