Preseason slate represents Cards' rise

The words “Arizona Cardinals” and “nationally televised” don’t often go together in the same sentence.

This year may be different. By looking at the team’s preseason schedule, which was revealed Wednesday, it’s clear the Cardinals’ rise to the brink of the playoffs will pay off for them on a national level this season.

Arizona’s third preseason game, at home against the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 24, will be the national game of the week on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The Cardinals host Houston in Week 1 of the preseason, travel to Minnesota in Week 2 and then to San Diego on Aug. 28.

It’s not by chance that Arizona was chosen to be on national TV in the third -- and often most important -- preseason game. The starters usually play into the third quarter in the third preseason game, giving them their last major tune-up before the regular season starts.

The Cardinals proved last year they were a team heading upward, going 10-6 in Bruce Arians’ first season as coach. A combination of their success, the storyline surrounding the Cardinals barely making the playoffs in the toughest division in football and as outspoken of a coach as there is in the NFL should make the Cards a popular choice for a national audience.

The league and the networks have clearly taken notice.

Expect the Cardinals to be on national TV more than just the required Thursday night game that every team gets. After the Cardinals second-half run in 2011, they played on Monday Night Football in 2012, losing 24-3 to San Francisco. Besides last season’s Thursday night game against Seattle, the Cardinals did not play on national prime time in 2013. Expect that to change, starting with the preseason.

Cardinals 2014 preseason schedule:

Week 1 (Aug. 7-10): vs. Houston Texans

Week 2 (Aug. 14-18): at Minnesota Vikings

Week 3 (Aug. 24): vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Week 4 (Aug. 28): at San Diego Chargers