NFC West: NFL Schedule Analysis 2011

St. Louis Rams schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
7:30
PM ET
Breakdown: The Rams open with three of their first four games at home, giving them a better chance against some tough teams. One of those games is against the Washington Redskins, who face the Rams for a fourth consecutive season and the second year in a row at the Edward Jones Dome. Since 2008, the Rams are 2-1 against the Redskins and 8-37 against everyone else. It's clear in looking at the schedule that the Rams have earned some respect. They are back on "Monday Night Football" for the first time since the 2006 season -- not just once, but twice. The team faces the New York Giants on the road in a Week 2 Monday night game pitting coach Steve Spagnuolo against his former team. Experience and inside knowledge should arm him with an excellent plan for Eli Manning. In Week 14, the Rams return to Qwest Field, the scene of their painful Week 17 defeat last season, for their second appearance on Monday night.

Complaint department: The Rams play back-to-back divisional road games on the West Coast when they visit San Francisco and Seattle in December. That is rough, but other teams in the division had more to complain about. The Rams face both Super Bowl participants on the road, but we knew that well before Tuesday. Spagnuolo will probably welcome the tough schedule. He's been eager for the Rams to step up in class. And he does get a bye week before heading onto the road against Green Bay and Dallas. Facing Baltimore on a short week following the Monday night matchup against the Giants isn't easy, but at least the game is in St. Louis.

The Bradford effect: The Rams had yet to select quarterback Sam Bradford in the 2010 draft when the NFL released its schedule for last season. Bradford's performance as a rookie has raised hopes in St. Louis and made the Rams more marketable nationally. The team was probably going to play the Hall of Fame game anyway given than ex-Rams Marshall Faulk and Les Richter will be enshrined this year, but Bradford's presence muted the groan factor. Throw in those two Monday night games and it's clear perceptions about the Rams are changing.

Rams Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Monday, Sep. 19, at NY Giants, 8:30 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Baltimore, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Dallas, 4:15 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Arizona, 4:15 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Seattle, 4:05 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Arizona, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at San Francisco, 4:15 PM
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 12, at Seattle, 8:30 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, San Francisco, 1:00 PM

Seattle Seahawks schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
7:18
PM ET
Breakdown: The Seattle Seahawks are back on "Monday Night Football" for the first time since the 2007 season when they face the division-rival St. Louis Rams in a Dec. 12 matchup. Seattle faces Philadelphia at Qwest Field in a Thursday night game one week earlier. That means the Seahawks will have 11 days to prepare for the prime-time game against St. Louis. Before basking in the prime-time lights, the season opens with a trip to San Francisco in a rematch of the 2010 opener. Seattle won that game handily, but the Seahawks face a tougher challenge against the 49ers on the road. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck played one of his worst games of the 2010 season at Candlestick Park. On the positive side, the Seahawks play three in a row at home beginning with the Dec. 1 game against the Eagles.

Complaint department: The Seahawks have five games kicking off in the 10 a.m. PT time slot, up from two last season. That puts Seattle at a disadvantage given how far the team must travel as the most isolated franchise in the league. The Seahawks follow their Week 1 visit to San Francisco with a trip to Pittsburgh. This is a tough schedule early with Pittsburgh, Atlanta and the New York Giants facing Seattle before the Seahawks' bye in Week 6.

Re-match, re-match: The Seahawks head to Soldier Field in Week 15 for a rematch of their divisional-round playoff defeat against the Chicago Bears last season. The timing of the rematch -- one week after that Dec. 12 Monday night game against St. Louis -- ensures a cold-weather game for Seattle. The temperature was 24 degrees when the Bears dominated Seattle during that 35-24 victory in the playoffs last season. Seattle fared much better during a Week 6 game at Soldier Field when the temperature at kickoff was 61 degrees.

Seahawks Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at San Francisco, 4:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Arizona, 4:15 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Atlanta, 4:05 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Cincinnati, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Baltimore, 4:05 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at St. Louis, 4:05 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Washington, 4:05 PM
Week 13: Thursday, Dec. 1, Philadelphia, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 12, St. Louis, 8:30 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, San Francisco, 4:15 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Arizona, 4:15 PM

Breakdown: The 49ers open the Jim Harbaugh era with home games against Seattle and Dallas. The team then plays three of its next four on the road, however, and there are truly some brutal stretches for San Francisco. The one home game during that stretch falls against a Tampa Bay team that shut out the 49ers at Candlestick Park last season. Later, the 49ers visit Baltimore for a Thanksgiving game on NFL Network. They play at home against Pittsburgh on "Monday Night Football" in Week 15. Teams welcome playing in prime time, but those are a couple of tough matchups. More on that below.

Complaint department: Where to begin? The 49ers play a Monday night game at home against the Steelers followed by a Saturday game against the Seahawks at Qwest Field. That's a tough turnaround, but there is more. The 49ers play a Sunday game at home against division-rival Arizona on Dec. 11, followed by a Thanksgiving game across the country in Baltimore -- a highly anticipated matchup pitting 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh against his brother, John. That's just brutal. On top of it all, the league again saddled the 49ers with more 10 a.m. PT kickoffs than any West Coast team should have to face. Five of the six potential early starts will indeed kick off in the 10 a.m. PT hour, matching the total for Seattle. That's 27 early kickoffs in 28 chances since 2007. Good luck, Jim.

Hitting the road late: The 49ers close the season with three NFC West road games in four weeks. Their only home game during that stretch is the prime-time matchup with Pittsburgh. This reminds me of the four-game stretch San Francisco endured to open last season. The team played three of its first four on the road, with the only home game against Super Bowl champion New Orleans.

49ers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Seattle, 4:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Dallas, 4:05 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Tampa Bay, 4:05 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Cleveland, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, NY Giants, 4:15 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Arizona, 4:05 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24, at Baltimore, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, St. Louis, 4:15 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Arizona, 4:05 PM
Week 15: Monday, Dec. 19, Pittsburgh, 8:30 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Seattle, 4:15 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at St. Louis, 1:00 PM

Arizona Cardinals schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
7:05
PM ET
Breakdown: The Arizona Cardinals open at home for only the third time since moving to Arizona for the 1988 season. Better yet, the Carolina Panthers are on the menu. Arizona can't take any opponent for granted, of course, but opening the season with a clearly winnable home game certainly beats the alternative. The bye falls in Week 6 and gives coach Ken Whisenhunt extra time to prepare for a Week 7 home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whisenhunt, assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm and new defensive coordinator Ray Horton are among the former Steelers assistants on Arizona's staff. The additional time gives Arizona the best chance to pull an upset against the AFC champs.

Complaint department: The Cardinals have consecutive road games against the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams in November. That's looking like a tough stretch. Playing the New York Giants, Pittsburgh and Baltimore Ravens during a four-game stretch is another toughie. The Cardinals have three games kicking off at 10 a.m. local time in Phoenix and three more kicking off at 11 a.m. local time. Whisenhunt has lamented the early starts.

Coasting home: The Cardinals faced the easiest schedule in the league over the second half of the 2010 season, but they could not capitalize. They play four of their final five games at University of Phoenix Stadium. None of the five teams during that stretch -- Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks -- finished the 2010 regular season with a winning record.

Cardinals Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Carolina, 4:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Seattle, 4:15 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, NY Giants, 4:05 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Pittsburgh, 4:05 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, St. Louis, 4:15 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at San Francisco, 4:05 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Dallas, 4:15 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, San Francisco, 4:05 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Cleveland, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Seattle, 4:15 PM

SPONSORED HEADLINES