After the Arizona Cardinals' 4-0 start, we all thought Ken Whisenhunt and company would be making a playoff push by season's end. Unfortunately, things went sour as quickly as they had gone well. Kevin Kolb's Week 6 injury squashed this team's fate and seemingly all Arizona's offensive firepower left with him.
However, the Cardinals announced today that they had finally hired their man at head coach, Bruce Arians. Given the fact the playoffs are still going on, it's obvious that the Cards have missed out and are now focused on two things: the 2013 offseason in terms of decisions that will help improve the ball club and the season that lies ahead.
In 2012, the schedule-makers didn't do them any favors as they ended the season with the second toughest schedule in the league according to NFL Trade Rumors. 2013 appears to be a little bit better, but overall it's still not as friendly as they would like.
Friendly would be having one of the bottom-10 schedules in the league based on last year's wins and losses. Instead they will have one of the top 10 most difficult schedules in the league. Their opponents' combined record from the 2012 season was 131-121-4.
Previous season's records are hardly a tell-all, yet it gives us a little bit of inside information on a subject that doesn't provide a whole lot of it. Based on what we know about the NFL's annual scheduling cycle, Arizona is set to take on the NFC South and the AFC South this coming year.
Obviously they will be squaring off against its three divisional foes twice a year in addition to the eight non-divisional teams they will face. Those 11 different teams make up 14 games total, which only leaves room for two more scheduled games.
The final two games were scheduled based on where the Cardinals finished in the NFC West. They finished in last place so they will take on Philadelphia and Detroit, two teams who also finished in last place among their respected divisions.
When playing at home, the Cardinals will square off against teams who have a combined record of 76-50-2. When Arizona travels away from the desert, they will take on opponents who have a combined record of 53-73-2—their schedule plays out exactly as they had hoped.
As an organization you always want your toughest games at home in front of your crowd and your easiest games on the road. Regardless, a team that struggled over the last 12 games of the season like the Cardinals did will have an uphill battle on their hands all season long.
That's not to say they can't overcome, but they will need an upgrade in talent in some key areas. The good thing is that Arians has proved that he can be a leader of men and inspire players to play hard. He was 9-3 as interim head coach and helped lead the Colts to an 11-5 record.
Besides the slate of offseason events, the biggest question becomes, "Will Ray Horton stay or go as defensive coordinator?"