Storyline, prediction for all 16 Arizona Cardinals regular-season games

Posted at 5:01 PM, Aug 31, 2016

The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a 13-3 regular season, their best-ever in franchise history, and their third NFC West division championship.

Repeating that feat will be no small task, especially considering the Cardinals will have to deal with the NFL's seventh-most difficult schedule in 2016.

With the regular season nearly upon us, now seems like a good time to look at what to expect for all 16 matchups.

Here's a quick look, including a storyline and prediction, for each game, beginning with their much-anticipated matchup against the Patriots on Sept. 11.

Week 1: vs. New England Patriots (Sunday night)

Storyline: Pro Bowl pass-rushing specialist Chandler Jones' first regular-season game as a Cardinal comes against the team that traded him in March. Also, the Patriots play the Cards at University of Phoenix Stadium for the first time.

Prediction: The Patriots will be without Tom Brady for this game(See: Deflategate), but don't expect New England to go down without a fight. Look for Carson Palmer's postseason struggles to carry over a bit before he gets going in the second half, connecting with Larry Fitzgerald for a score to put the Red Birds ahead for good. Cardinals 20, Patriots 17

Week 2: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Storyline: New Buccaneers coach and former ASU head coach Dirk Koetter returns to the Valley. (Cards offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin also interviewed for the job.)

Prediction: Jones and the Cardinals get after Jameis Winston, who's sacked six times with two fumbles and two interceptions. The Chris/David Johnson running back duo combines for 150 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Cardinals 38, Buccaneers 14

Week 3: at Buffalo Bills

Storyline: Former Cardinals linebacker Lorenzo Alexander squares off against his former team. Also, just months after Cards coach Bruce Arians made Dr. Jen Welter the NFL's first-ever female coach, Bills coach Rex Ryan followed suit by hiring the first full-time female coach.

Prediction: The Cards struggle against LeSean McCoy and the Bills rushing attack, and Palmer throws three interceptions as the Cards suffer their first setback of the season. Bills 20, Cardinals 16

Week 4: vs. Los Angeles Rams

Storyline: Both teams used to call St. Louis home. Cards coach Bruce Arians and Rams coach Jeff Fisher don't seem to care for each other.

Prediction: This matchup is always a testy one, and the Rams handed the Cards their first loss of the season in a surprising upset in Glendale last year. But this time, the Cards defense takes care of business against Rams rookie QB Jared Goff. Cardinals 24, Rams 13

Week 5: at San Francisco 49ers (Thursday night)

Storyline: For the second time in eight regular-season games, the Cards face a team coached by Chip Kelly. The Cards blew out the Eagles 40-17 in Week 15 of last season in Philadelphia; the Eagles fired Kelly weeks later.

Prediction: Palmer throws for 300 yards and David Johnson rushes for 100 yards and a score in a comfortable road win, as the 49ers continue to work out their new identity early in the Kelly era. Cardinals 28, 49ers 16

Week 6: vs. New York Jets (Monday night)

Storyline: New York head coach and former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles makes his return to UOP Stadium in what will be the Jets' first-ever game in Glendale.

Prediction: Bowles relies upon his knowledge of Arizona's offense to disrupt Palmer and the Cardinals' passing game, while the Jets' rushing attack led by Matt Forte and Bilal Powell combines for 150 yards and a pair of TDs. Jets 23, Cardinals 21

Week 7: vs. Seattle Seahawks (Sunday night)

Storyline: The Seahawks have flat-out owned the Cardinals in Glendale since 2013; they've won three straight at UOP Stadium, outscoring the Cards by a combined 105-34 in those games.

Prediction: Seattle's domination of the Cardinals in AZ ends here, as Palmer has his most efficient game of the season, the Cards shut down the Thomas Rawls and the Seahawks' running game, and Arizona wins the turnover battle by a 3-0 margin. Cardinals 24, Seahawks 10

Week 8: at Carolina Panthers

Storyline: It's rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game, in which Cam Newton and the Panthers dismantled Palmer and the Birdgang 49-15 in Charlotte.

Prediction: The Cards use momentum from their win over the Seahawks to make this game much closer than their previous meeting, but Newton makes enough plays with his arm and feet to lift the Panthers at home. Panthers 23, Cardinals 20

Week 9: BYE

Midseason record: 5-3 (4-1 NFC, 3-0 NFC West)

Week 10: vs. San Francisco 49ers

Storyline: This will be Kelly's first trip to UOP Stadium since 2014, when the Cards held off UA alum Nick Foles and the Eagles for a dramatic 24-20 win that came down to the game's final play.

Prediction: For the second straight season, Tyrann Mathieu returns an interception for a score against the Niners, and Michael Floyd catches a pair of TD passes as the Cards remain perfect against their division rivals. Cardinals 31, 49ers 13

Week 11: at Minnesota Vikings

Storyline: The Vikes will look for payback after the Cards survived Minnesota on Thursday Night Football last year thanks to a late sack and fumble. This will be Arizona's first visit to the Vikings' brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium.

Prediction: The Vikings are an up-and-coming group, especially on defense. But Fitzgerald celebrates his return home to Minneapolis with a 150-yard, two-TD game. A late Patrick Peterson interception seals the victory. Cardinals 23, Vikings 17

Week 12: at Atlanta Falcons

Storyline: After spending one season in Arizona, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon returned to the Falcons in the offseason -- and he found an un-cashed check worth well over $100,000 in the process.

Prediction: Peterson keeps star wide receiver Julio Jones in check, but Atlanta wins the turnover battle, and a late Palmer interception seals a Falcons victory in a game the Cards let slip away. Falcons 23, Cardinals 21

Week 13: vs. Washington Redskins

Storyline: Cornerback and 2009 Cardinals fourth-round draft pick Greg Toler returns to Glendale, as the Redskins look to avenge a 30-20 defeat in Arizona two years ago.

Prediction: It's an offensive shootout, as Kirk Cousins has a 300-yard, four-TD game but Palmer dominates the Redskins' poor pass defense to the tune of 350 yards and four scores of his own, including two to tight end Darren Fells. A late Chandler Catanzaro field goal helps Arizona avoid overtime. Cardinals 41, Redskins 38

Week 14: at Miami Dolphins

Storyline: The Cardinals made an epic comeback against QB Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins during Week 4 of the 2012 season, escaping with a 24-21 overtime victory in Glendale. 

Prediction: One week removed from a shootout with the Redskins, Week 14 becomes a defensive duel. Calais Campbell's sack and forced fumble of Tannehill in the final minute helps the Cards survive on the road. Cardinals 13, Dolphins 10.

Week 15: vs. New Orleans Saints

Storyline: The Cardinals handed Drew Brees and the Saints a 31-19 loss in Week 1 of the 2015 season in Glendale. (David Johnson's late catch-and run for a TD sealed the deal.) Saints RB Tim Hightower, who scored the game-winning TD for the Cards in the 2008 NFC Championship Game, returns to AZ.

Prediction:  A pair of TD passes by Brees gives the Saints an early lead, but a consistent rushing attack led by a surprising 100-yard performance from Chris Johnson helps the Birds battle back. Palmer's late TD to Floyd extends AZ's winning streak to three games. Cardinals 30, Saints 27

Week 16: at Seattle Seahawks

Storyline: The Cardinals don't fear the Seahawks or their "12th Man" crowd, as they've won two of their last three games in Seattle, including last year's 39-32 win on Sunday Night Football.

Prediction: Russell Wilson scores three touchdowns (two rushing) and the Seahawks' defense bottles up the Cards' running game on what is sure to be a chilly Christmas Eve in Seattle. Seahawks 27, Cardinals 17

Week 17: at Los Angeles Rams

Storyline: The Cardinals wrap up the regular season by making their first trip to L.A. in 22 years. The last meeting between the two teams in California came during Game 1 of the 1994 season when the Rams beat the Cards 14-12.

Prediction: The Rams take advantage of a battered and bruised Cards team early by sacking Palmer four times in the first half. But Arizona's defense steps up in the second half, as Jones forces two Goff fumbles, the second of which is returned by Deone Bucannon for a game-winning score. The Cards secure a Wild Card playoff berth as Seattle reclaims the NFC West division crown. Cardinals 20, Rams 17

Final regular-season record: 11-5 (9-3 NFC, 5-1 NFC West)