A weekly examination of the Cardinals' ESPN.com Power Ranking:
Preseason: 26 | Last Week: 9 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
Which one of these teams does not belong? Despite losing to the San Francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals remained in the top 10 of the ESPN.com Power Rankings. More importantly, they’re the only squad among the top 13 that is not in the playoffs -- and they’ve beaten three teams ahead of them. Finishing at 10-6, Arizona tied the franchise’s best turnaround, a testament to the new leadership of general manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians. It's also a reflection of the commitment to a new culture around the Cardinals.
Arizona’s jump of 17 spots in the Power Rankings from the preseason to Week 18 was the largest gain this season, and warranted. Despite starting out slow, they finished 6-2, a true representation of what Arians’ offense can accomplish. Even though there are significant areas to improve in the offseason -- the offensive line could use an upgrade and the running game needs to get better -- Arizona finished the year in a good place to build on in 2014. But no matter how well they’ve been playing, their season-ending loss to San Francisco was a perfect representation of who this team is: start slow and then finish fast on the shoulders of its defense.