The Arizona Cardinals made a considerable amount of changes since their final game of the 2012 season, including in the coaching ranks as well as all over the roster.
But will it all be enough to lift a team that won just five games last season to the postseason in the next one?
According to Sports Illustrated writer Don Banks, no. But, he notes, it's not necessarily due to a lack of effort or anything the Cardinals have done themselves.
You can like a lot of what the Cardinals accomplished this offseason on the coaching, front office and roster-building side and still not be able to make a legitimate case for them to leap-frog the 49ers, Seahawks or Rams in the NFC West standings. And therein lies the problem: You can't make the playoffs as a last-place team in the NFL. It's mathematically impossible because there are only two wild-card clubs in each conference.
I can see Arizona being obviously improved, finishing in the seven-win range, and playing its division mates tough. But the Cardinals don't have the firepower to match what San Francisco, Seattle or St. Louis can put on the field this season, and adding the below average Carson Palmer at quarterback only rates as an upgrade because Arizona was almost comically outmatched at the game's most crucial position last year.
Banks' misgivings about Palmer notwithstanding, he is reiterating a general theme that seems to be surrounding the Cardinals heading into the 2013 season. Sure, they may be better, but their division is so tough their record may not reflect the improvement.
As for the team's playoff chances? Banks writes, "It would require woeful underachievement by the rest of the NFC West to lift Arizona's fortunes to wild-card contending status."
Very well, then.