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The Schedule In D-Hop's Absence

Looking at the games the Cardinals must work without top wide receiver

The schedule, as the Cardinals knew going into it, wasn't going to be easy. Not with the opponents on the schedule. It maybe could've been better -- Sports Illustrated said the Cardinals were one of the teams that got "hosed" with the way the league built it out -- but you gotta play 'em as they line up.

The primetime games are interesting. Three of four at home (and the Mexico game is a game that should've been a Cardinals home game too) and so that's a nod to the home fans.

But aside from the primetime games, the immediate storyline for the schedule is what the Cardinals ended up in the first six games of the season -- or the No Nuk Zone, with DeAndre Hopkins having to serve his suspension:

  • Week 1 Chiefs
  • Week 2 at Raiders
  • Week 3 Rams
  • Week 4 at Panthers
  • Week 5 Eagles
  • Week 6 at Seahawks

The Cardinals did win in Seattle last year without Hopkins and without Kyler Murray. Beyond that? The first three games are a gauntlet and would've been that, Hop or no. The benefit of the timing of course is that Kliff Kingsbury and the offensive staff (including new co-pass game coordinators Cam Turner and Spencer Whipple) will have all offseason/training camp to come up with their sans Hop gameplan.

Kliff Kingsbury, talking on the subject for the first time Friday, said the Cardinals have to learn from the struggles the Cardinals had late last season when Hopkins got hurt.

"Marquise (Brown) will help, he's a dynamic playmaker," Kingsbury said. "We just have to play better as an offense. It's unfortunate he won't be available. But I'm excited when we get him back (Week 7). We've struggled the second half of the season and when we get him back it'll be a real shot in the arm for that back half."

It's so hard to get a feel for what these teams will be like early in the season. The Chiefs are trying to figure out an offense without Tyreek Hill. The Raiders have to find a chemistry with Davante Adams, and college time together or not, that's unlikely to be full tilt with Derek Carr that early in the season. And just what will the Panthers and Eagles look like?

Another 6-0 start would be a lot to ask, with or without Hopkins. Then again, the Cardinals looked like they had an epic mountain to climb in the 2021 season opener and they took apart the Titans. So much of this will depend on Rondale Moore's improvement, Zach Ertz's development in the playbook, Hollywood Brown's comfort, James Conner's consistency, and even Trey McBride's learning curve.

But Hop isn't walking through that door (until Week 7 against the Saints on a Thursday, which also means no real practice for Hopkins his first week back), so the Cardinals have to find a way.

Kingsbury did say he has talked to quarterback Kyler Murray about the suspension.

"He has, yeah," Kingsbury said. "But he got his best friend (Brown), so he's in good shape."

DeAndre Hopkins catches a touchdown against the Eagles in a 2020 home game