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2021 NFL schedule release: Cardinals schedule includes three primetime games, Christmas day game

The Cardinals will start the season in Tennessee, end the season at home against Seattle and they'll have three primetime games including a Christmas game.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The long-awaited and heavily-advertised 2021 NFL schedule release is finally here, coming just two weeks after the NFL Draft. 

The Arizona Cardinals will see quite an interesting schedule this season. It starts with a road game against a 2020 AFC playoff team and ends with a home game against a division rival. The Cards will see quite a high number of opponents with QB shake-ups and they'll play on Christmas day AND they get three primetime games all at home (eyeballs emoji). 

Unfortunately for Arizona, four of their first six games are on the road and they only play at home back-to-back once.

Check out the 2021 Cardinals schedule below. All times are for Arizona.

Week 1 (Sept. 12, 10 a.m.): at Tennessee Titans

The Titans were a playoff team last year after going 11-5. They have one of the league's top running backs in Derrick Henry, who has led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.

The Cardinals and Titans have only played each other five times since 1997. Most recently, the Cardinals defeated the Titans in Glendale 12-7 in 2017.

Week 2 (Sept. 19, 1:05 p.m.): vs. Minnesota Vikings

Credit: AP
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins scores on a 7-yard touchdown run in front of Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

This one might feel a little weird as former Cardinals All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson joined the Vikings on a one-year deal this offseason and will be making his first appearance in his career in Arizona as a member of another team.

It's the home opener for the Cardinals. Arizona is 1-3-1 in their home openers over the last five seasons and 6-3-1 over the last 10 seasons.

Minnesota missed the playoffs last season after going 7-9. The Cardinals have dropped five of their last six to the Vikings dating back to 2010. Arizona most recently played the Vikings in 2018 in Minnesota, losing 27-17.

Week 3 (Sept. 26, 10 a.m.): at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Cardinals will head to Jacksonville to take on the new regime leading the Jaguars, who hired former college coach Urban Meyer this offseason and also drafted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Cardinals have played the Jags just five times in history and have won each of the past three matchups including most recently in 2017, when the Cardinals beat them 27-24 at home.

Week 4 (Oct. 3, 1:05 p.m.): at Los Angeles Rams

Credit: AP
FILE - Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20), top, stops a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) during an NFL football game in Inglewood, Calif., in this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, file photo. Hopkins was selected Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, to The Associated Press All-Pro Team. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)

The Cardinals will host the Los Angeles Rams and hope to break their 0-8 skid against the Rams since Sean McVay took over as head coach in 2017.

The Cards last defeated the Rams in Los Angeles at the end of the 2016 season 44-6. 

Now, the Cardinals will take on a new-look Rams team that brought in Matthew Stafford from Detroit, who is 3-0-1 in his last four games against the Cardinals.

Week 5 (Oct. 10, 1:25 p.m.): vs. San Francisco 49ers

Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) in action against San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jason Verrett (22) during an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Jennifer Stewart)

The Cardinals will take on the 49ers in what should be another interesting divisional matchup in 2021. 

The Cards split their two games against the 49ers in 2020. Their road game against San Francisco was actually played in Glendale last season due to wildfires in California. The Week 16 contest was the first of two chances the Cardinals would have to lock in a playoff spot, but they lost 20-12. 

They’ll look to get revenge against the 49ers in 2021, who have an interesting situation at quarterback after drafting Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Week 6 (Oct. 17, 1:05 p.m.): at Cleveland Browns

Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, right, and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield exchange jerseys after an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 38-24. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Cardinals will take on the Browns in Cleveland, also coming off a playoff appearance in 2020. This was the 17th game added for Arizona when the NFL expanded the schedule this year.

Kyler Murray defeated his former Oklahoma Sooners teammate Baker Mayfield in a Cardinals-Browns matchup in Glendale in 2019. Mayfield will be looking for revenge against his fellow Heisman winner.

Week 7 (Oct. 24, 1:25 p.m.): at Houston Texans

Another team with some offseason quarterback turmoil as Deshaun Watson is facing sexual misconduct allegations from a number of women and the NFL is currently investigating, so we don’t exactly know what the Texans might look like come the 2021 season.

This is the former team of Cardinals stars DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt, so there's some emotional drama potentially involved here.

The Cardinals have played the Texans just four times in history, most recently in 2017 when Houston defeated Arizona 31-21 in Houston.

Week 8 (Oct. 28, 5:20 p.m. Thursday Night Football): vs Green Bay Packers

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald greet each other on the field after an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. Arizona won 20-17. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

The Cardinals will host Aaron Rodgers (maybe?) and the Green Bay Packers, who reached the NFC Championship game last season, on Thursday Night Football in October, the first of three primetime games for Arizona in 2021.

The Packers are in a bit of turmoil this offseason with reports that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, so we don’t exactly know for sure what the team will look like. The Cardinals last played the Packers in Green Bay in December of 2018, when the Cardinals came out with a 20-17 win.

Green Bay last traveled to Arizona in the postseason after the 2015 season when the Cardinals won 26-20 in an overtime thriller.

Week 9 (Nov. 7, 2:25 p.m.): at San Francisco 49ers

Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) dives past San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (56) to score a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

The Cardinals will take on the 49ers in what should be another interesting divisional matchup in 2021. 

The Cards split their two games against the 49ers in 2020. Their road game against San Francisco was actually played in Glendale last season due to wildfires in California. The Week 16 contest was the first of two chances the Cardinals would have to lock in a playoff spot, but they lost 20-12. 

They’ll look to get revenge against the 49ers in 2021, who have an interesting situation at quarterback after drafting Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Week 10 (Nov. 14, 2:05 p.m.): vs. Carolina Panthers

Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs away from Carolina Panthers defensive end Marquis Haynes (98) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Westerholt)

The Cardinals will take on the Panthers for a third straight year after they lost in Charlotte last season 31-21 in Week 4 and lost 38-20 at home in 2019.

The Panthers will look different at the quarterback position as well in 2021 after they traded away Teddy Bridgewater and traded for former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who was drafted in the same class as former Cardinals QB Josh Rosen back in 2017.

The Cardinals are 0-5 in their last five matchups against the Panthers since 2015, including an NFC Championship game blowout loss in Jan. 2016.

Week 11 (Nov. 21, 2:25 p.m.): at Seattle Seahawks

Credit: AP
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) battles Arizona Cardinals defensive back Patrick Peterson for position during the first half an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 28-21. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

The Cardinals played two thrilling games against the Seahawks in 2020. The Cardinals took the first game in overtime in Seattle 37-34 before falling to Seattle at home a few weeks later. Arizona is 4-5-1 against Seattle over the past five seasons. 

They'll take on Seattle in Seattle first, before closing the season against the Seahawks at home in January. 

Week 12 (Nov. 28): BYE

Week 13 (Dec. 5, 11 a.m.): at Chicago Bears

This will be yet another opponent in 2021 with a new quarterback situation for the Cardinals. The Chicago Bears ditched Mitch Trubisky, brought in Andy Dalton (who the Cardinals played last season when he was with Dallas) and also traded up in the first round to take Ohio State QB Justin Fields. 

The Cardinals last played the Bears in 2018 at home, losing 16-14. Since 2001, the Cardinals are 2-5 against Chicago.

Week 14 (Dec. 13, 6:15 p.m. Monday Night Football): vs. Los Angeles Rams

Credit: AP
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay talks with Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury prior to an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Jennifer Stewart)

The Cardinals will host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football in December and hope to break their 0-8 skid against the Rams since Sean McVay took over as head coach in 2017. The Cardinals haven’t actually defeated the Rams at home since 2014 when they were the St. Louis Rams.

The latest blunder for the Cardinals was when they had a shot to get into the playoffs in the final week of the season if they defeated the Rams, led by backup quarterback John Wolford. But, the Cardinals ultimately lost, missing out on the playoffs. 

Now, the Cardinals will take on a new-look Rams team that brought in Matthew Stafford from Detroit, who is 3-0-1 in his last four games against the Cardinals.

Week 15 (Dec. 19, 11 a.m.): at Detroit Lions

Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) runs in front of Detroit Lions defensive back Tracy Walker (21) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. The Lions won 26-23. (AP Photo/Jennifer Stewart)

You might mistake the Detroit Lions for a divisional opponent at this point. Arizona has played Detroit in seven of the past eight seasons dating back to 2012 and in each of the past four seasons.

The Cardinals have certainly had their trouble with Detroit recently, going 0-3-1 in their past four matchups. However, from 2006-2015, Arizona went 7-0 against Detroit. So, the Cardinals will hope to get back to their winning ways this year against a Detroit team that is rebuilding after trading away quarterback Matthew Stafford to Arizona division rival Los Angeles. 

Week 16 (Dec. 25, 6:15 p.m.): vs. Indianapolis Colts

This is a new one! Christmas in the desert. The Cardinals are slated to host a Christmas day game against the Indianapolis Colts this year, one of two games that will be played on the Saturday along with Browns at Packers.

The Colts are yet another team on the Cardinals schedule coming off a playoff appearance in 2020. They will have a new quarterback after Phillip Rivers retired and former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was brought in.

Arizona has played the Colts five times since 1996 and most recently in 2017 when the Cardinals won 16-13 in overtime in Indy. 

Week 17 (Jan. 2, 11 a.m.): at Dallas Cowboys

Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) carries the ball against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

One of the highlights of the 2020 season for the Cardinals was when they traveled to take on Dallas in a primetime Monday Night Football matchup and spanked the Cowboys 38-10 on national TV.

Of course, the Cowboys were without starting quarterback Dak Prescott who was out for the season with an injury and they faced backup Andy Dalton.

It will be the second time in two years the Cardinals head back to North Texas, the home of quarterback Kyler Murray. As Cardinals Senior VP of Media Relations Mark Dalton points out, the young QB kind of loves playing there. 


Week 18 (Jan. 9, 2:25 p.m.): vs. Seattle Seahawks

Credit: AP
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Just like in the final week last season against the Rams, this season finale could have huge potential playoff implications as the Cardinals will host Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to close the year.

The Cardinals played two thrilling games against the Seahawks in 2020. The Cardinals took the first game in overtime in Seattle 37-34 before falling to Seattle at home a few weeks later. Arizona is 4-5-1 against Seattle over the past five seasons.