Arizona Cardinals - Division Sleeper?

Sfgfan pointed out the new power rankings over at CBS Sportsline.  In the rankings, Pete Prisco ranks the 49ers 19th overall and 4th among NFC West teams.  I don't want to get into the insanity of that decision here.  Considering the highest NFC West team is 13th and the lowest is 19th, it clearly shows the parity and competitiveness the division should have this year.  I would actually like to address the Arizona Cardinals.  Prisco has them 13th and says, "They've added a lot of good football players to a team that had talent to begin with. They just might be the best team in the NFC West."

Personally, I don't think they're the best team in the NFC West.  However, I do think they've made enough improvements to build on last year's 5-11 finish.  I plan on doing a more in depth preview of the Cardinals closer to the season.  In the meantime, I wonder what everyone here thinks of the Cardinals heading into 2007?  They had a solid draft nabbing Levi Brown and then having Alan Branch fall into their laps in the 2nd round.  They didn't have a lot of picks but I think they could have some winners on their hands.  Ben Patrick could give them a solid alternative to Leonard Pope and Buster Davis could help shore up their linebacker corp.  They didn't make many major splashes in free agency, but Roderick Hood could definitely help out in the secondary.

The Cardinals schedule provides plenty of opportunities for them to remain competitive in the division if they continue to improve.  They get the Bucs, Lions, Browns and Redskins, which are all seemingly winnable games.  While they might not improve much and finish 6-10 or 7-9, I think they could just as easily surprise people and finished 9-7 or 10-6 if the chips fall the right way.  If that happens, this division becomes a legit 4-way race down to the wire.  Arizona finishes the season at home against St. Louis, in a matchup that could affect the playoff race.

I'm of the belief that the 49ers and Seahawks are the teams to beat in this division.  The Seahawks are the defending champs and the 49ers have obviously improved as much as anybody on paper.  However, there will be no gimmes this year when it comes to intra-divisional matchups.

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