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Looking Toward 2014 Cardinals' Schedule

Noteworthy narratives from the 13 opponents of the upcoming season



The Cardinals' preseason schedule was released on Wednesday, and the dates for the regular season contests will be announced later this month. The Cardinals will play their customary two games apiece against the NFC West, and will match up with the NFC East and AFC West for eight more. Atlanta and Detroit round out the schedule. Here is a look at storylines for every opponent in 2014:

FALCONS: Will Matt Ryan's nightmare continue?

The Falcons quarterback is one of the better young gunslingers in the game, but the Cardinals have been his kryptonite of late. Ryan has faced them twice in the past two years, tossing just one touchdown and nine interceptions. A player intent on keeping him miserable is outside linebacker John Abraham, who returns to Atlanta after spending 2006-12 with the team. He had a sack in the Cardinals' 27-13 win last year.


BRONCOS: The student and the teachers

Peyton Manning dissects a defense so well that he's akin to a coach on the field. Against the Cardinals, he will face two mentors who helped him master the craft. The Denver quarterback worked closely with Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore in each of the 13 years he started in Indianapolis, and the two will face off for the first time this year. Bruce Arians worked with Manning for three seasons, so it'll be fun to see the chess match between the two sides.


COWBOYS: First look at Jerry's World

The Cardinals will make their first trip to Dallas in nearly a decade, and will get their first chance to play in AT&T Stadium, with its 180-foot-wide high-definition videoboard and other amenities. The Cardinals hope this road game is as memorable as the one in 1998, when a Jake Plummer-led squad beat Dallas in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Vikings in the divisional round.


GIANTS: Eli, not Fitz?

It's crazy to think how much these franchises were affected by one throw in 2003. When Josh McCown hit Nate Poole on a last-second touchdown pass in the season finale against the Vikings that year, the Cardinals dropped from the No. 1 spot in the draft to No. 3. The Giants subsequently traded their No. 4 pick, Philip Rivers, to the Chargers for No. 1 overall pick Eli Manning, who has led them to a pair of Super Bowls. The Cardinals chose Larry Fitzgerald with their first-round choice, and he's become the best receiver in franchise history. If McCown's pass fell incomplete, Manning very well could have been the Cardinals' choice and the face of the franchise.


SEAHAWKS: Victorious in Seattle

Call them the bookend wins: The Cardinals had one of the most memorable regular-season victories in team history last year when Michael Floyd's late touchdown catch lifted the underdog Cards to a win at CenturyLink Field. It dealt quarterback Russell Wilson his first home loss in his first two seasons and the Seahawks their final blemish before a Super Bowl-winning run. But don't forget the Cards also won the very first regular-season game at CenturyLink back in 2002, downing the Seahawks behind Thomas Jones' best day as a Cardinal (173 yards rushing.) Since 2008, the Cards are 3-3 in Seattle, and have split with the Seahawks in four games overall during Wilson's impressive early career.


CHIEFS: Is Ellington the Cards' version of Charles?

Kansas City has one of the premier tailbacks in the game, as Jamaal Charles is a dynamic threat both running and catching the ball. He's not a classic between-the-tackles type, but can do serious damage in space. Andre Ellington showed the same strengths as a rookie for the Cardinals, leading the NFL in yards per carry and playing a role in the passing game. He will get increased touches in 2014, and if Ellington can mimic Charles' production, the Cardinals will be in good shape offensively. Coach Bruce Arians has made such comparisons.


49ERS: Getting over the hump

The Cardinals played San Francisco tight last year but dropped both contests. The 49ers have won nine of the past 10 matchups, in large part by capturing the turnover battle 30-7 in that time. Both teams believe themselves to be Super Bowl contenders, and an improvement against the 49ers seems integral for the Cardinals' chances. The game in San Francisco will be the Cardinals' first trip to new Levi's Stadium.


RAIDERS: Palmer and Veldheer face their former team

Two key pieces to the Cardinals' 2014 success will be the quarterback and his left tackle. Carson Palmer was traded from Oakland to Arizona for a seventh-round draft pick last offseason, and the Cardinals brought in his blindside blocker Jared Veldheer on a five-year free agent contract in March. This will be the first trip back to face their former team since the acquisitions.


RAMS: Honey Badger highs and lows

Rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu announced his NFL presence in a big way in last year's season opener in St. Louis, forcing a Jared Cook goal-line fumble in a play Cardinals' fans deemed the best of the year. It was the start of a brilliant 14-game run, but Mathieu's season ended prematurely the next time the Cardinals faced the Rams. He tore multiple knee ligaments while returning a kickoff and is still in the midst of a long rehabilitation. Despite the injury, Mathieu should get used to playing St. Louis a lot, as he seems destined to become a fixture in the Cardinals' secondary.


EAGLES: Mind games

Coach Chip Kelly brought his innovative offensive ideas to the NFL last year, and after a bumpy 3-5 start in Philadelphia, led the team to the playoffs. Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles did not have the same name cachet entering the year, but used an array of blitzes to stymie opposing offenses and rank the defense among the league's best. The formidable minds matched up last season in Philadelphia, and we'll call it a draw. The Eagles won, 24-21, scoring all of their points in the first 35 minutes before the Cardinals' defense took control. Kelly and Bowles will try to one up each other again in 2014.


REDSKINS: The return of Andre Roberts?

Roberts signed with Washington as a free agent expecting to be the No. 2 receiver, but the addition of DeSean Jackson has pushed Roberts down the depth chart. He will go up against the defensive backs he faced so many times on the Cardinals' practice field. Jackson will be another weapon to slow down, but he hasn't traditionally given the Cardinals much trouble (12 catches for 155 yards in three games). Jay Gruden is the Redskins' new coach. He interviewed in Arizona for the Cards' head job in 2013, but the front office chose Arians.


LIONS: Megatron and Patrick Peterson meet again

There seems to be little debate that Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the NFL. Patrick Peterson is among the elite cornerbacks, and once again the two will face off in 2014. Johnson had six catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns in last season's meeting, although the numbers are a bit misleading. Johnson scored a 72-yard touchdown on a slant where it looked like linebacker Karlos Dansby made an interception, causing Peterson to stop on the play. The Cardinals prevailed in that game, 25-21, and hope to do so again for the sixth consecutive time over Detroit.


CHARGERS: Manti Te'o and Tyrann Mathieu together? Almost

The two biggest names taken outside the first round of the 2013 draft were linebacker Manti Te'o and safety Tyrann Mathieu. They'll be on the same field when the Cardinals host the Chargers, but if the draft went differently last April, they would have been teammates. The Cardinals' front office may have drafted Te'o in the second round, but instead traded the pick to San Diego, who made him its choice.  Arizona selected LSU linebacker Kevin Minter seven picks later, and he is expected to start in place of the departed Karlos Dansby in 2014.


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