Pretty interesting news out of Arizona on Monday as the Cardinals hired Jen Welter as an assistant coaching intern for training camp and the preseason to work with inside linebackers. She is thought to be the first female coach of any kind in the NFL. She previously worked for the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League to coach linebackers and special teams and suited up as a running back and special teams player for the men's squad in 2014. I would have never thought we would see this in my lifetime. The NBA I can see. Only 15 or so guys on an NBA roster. But NFL locker rooms are, well, not exactly PG-13. But kudos to the Cardinals for their forward thinking.
The Cards' biggest offseason loss likely wasn't a player but defensive coordinator Todd Bowles being hired as the Jets' new head coach. Despite losing several starters to injury, the Cards were fifth in points allowed last season. Linebackers coach James Bettcher, who is just 36, was promoted to replace Bowles. The Cardinals will continue to run a 3-4 under Bettcher.
Of course, Arizona's 2015 season ended with a playoff loss at Carolina in perhaps the worst offensive game I have ever seen a team play. The Cards had an NFL-record postseason low 78 total yards with three turnovers. Arizona was 4-4 on the road last regular season, 5-3 against the spread and 2-5-1 "over/under." The Cardinals' 2015 road schedule ranks as the 9th-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2014 winning percentage of .547. It's the second-easiest in the NFC West.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 20 -- at Bears (+1): Arizona comes off a Week 1 home game vs. New Orleans, while Chicago opens the season at Soldier Field against rival Green Bay. Cardinals have lost four of the past five meetings with the Bears, last in 2012. They lose this one too. Key trend: Cards 4-6 ATS in past 10 as road favorite.
Oct. 11 -- at Lions (-1.5): Arizona is off a Week 4 home game vs. the Rams, while Detroit is on a short week, visiting Seattle the previous Monday. Huge advantage for Cards. Can't wait to see Cards star cornerback Patrick Peterson matched up against future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson of the Lions here. Last season in Week 11, the Cardinals shut down the visiting Lions to win their season-high sixth straight game. That was the game after Carson Palmer was lost for the season. Former Lions backup Drew Stanton got the start and threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns, both to Michael Floyd. The Lions were held to 262 yards, and Matthew Stafford was totally ineffective. Johnson was held to five catches for 59 yards. Cardinals lose. Key trend: Cards 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 at NFC North teams.
Oct. 18 -- at Steelers (-2.5): Another break for Arizona as Pittsburgh is also on a short week, visiting San Diego on Monday in Week 5. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was the Steelers offensive coordinator when Pittsburgh beat Ken Whisenhunt's Cardinals in the 2009 Super Bowl. A few years later Arians replaced the fired Whisenhunt (Arians had moved on to Indianapolis). It's Arizona's first visit to Pittsburgh since 2003. Cards lose this. Key trend: Cards 3-3 ATS at AFC North teams.
Nov. 1 -- at Browns (+3): Short week for Arizona as it's off a Week 7 Monday home game vs. Baltimore. This also precedes the Cards' bye. Cleveland is off a game at St. Louis. First Arizona trip to Cleveland since 2003. Cards win this. Key trend: Cards 5-5 ATS in past 10 before a bye (any location).
Nov. 15 -- at Seahawks (-5.5): Both teams are off their byes in Week 9. This is a Sunday night game. Arizona was dominated twice by the Seahawks last year. The game in Seattle was in Week 12, and the Cards lost 19-3. Star Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald missed the game. The Cards sacked Russell Wilson seven times but had only 204 total yards. Stanton was 14-for-26 for 149 yards and a pick. Cardinals lose this. Key trend: Cards 4-6 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Nov. 29 -- at 49ers (-2): Arizona off a Week 11 home game vs. Cincinnati, while San Francisco is off a trip to Seattle. The Cardinals helped weaken the Niners this offseason by signing very good free-agent guard Mike Iupati. The Niners signed defensive tackle Darnell Dockett after the Cards released him. Arizona concluded last season with a 20-17 loss at San Francisco in Jim Harbaugh's finale. Ryan Lindley started that game at QB for Arizona and was 23-for-39 for 316 yards, two touchdowns and three picks. Floyd caught eight passes for 153 yards and two scores. Cardinals win this. Key trend: Cards 1-9 SU in past 10 as road dog in series (3-6-1 ATS).
Dec. 6 -- at St. Louis (-1): The Rams are off a trip to Cincinnati in Week 12. One of the snoozer games of all last season was on a Thursday in Week 15 in St. Louis, a 12-6 Arizona win that would be the team's last of the year. Stanton was lost to a season-ending injury in that. Chandler Catanzaro kicked four field goals. It's was the first NFL game without a touchdown by either team since Week 15 of the 2012 seasons when the Oakland Raiders won 15-0 against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the first win for the Cardinals without scoring a touchdown since 2004 in Week 17 against the Buccaneers. Cards lose this. Key trend: Cards 9-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Dec. 20 -- at Eagles (-1.5): Arizona has extra time to prepare for Chip Kelly's offense as it hosts Minnesota on Thursday in Week 14. The good news is the Cards then conclude with two home games. The bad news: against the Packers and Seahawks. That's rough. Philly is off a Sunday home game vs. Buffalo. Cards beat the visiting Eagles 24-20 in Week 8 last year. Palmer hit John Brown for the winning 75-yard touchdown pass with 1:21 remaining. Palmer threw for 329 yards and two scores. Cards lose this. Key trend: Cards 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 at NFC East teams.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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