INDIANAPOLIS – It comes to no surprise to the Indianapolis Colts that Bruce Arians has the Arizona Cardinals in the thick of the NFC playoff picture.
Thanks to three straight wins and five of their last seven, the Cardinals will have a 6-4 record when they welcome the Colts for a 4:05 p.m. EST kickoff on Sunday.
New Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has been particularly effective during the team’s three-game winning streak.
Palmer has had arguably his three best games of the year in the last three weeks with 63-of-92 passing for 832 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald (45 catches for 554 yards) and Michael Floyd (42 catches for 657 yards) form one of the top duos in the league at going up and getting the football.
The second-year Floyd is coming off a career-high 11-catch, 193-yard performance in the team’s 27-14 win over Jacksonville.
In the backfield, the Cardinals have relied on the two-back system of Andre Ellington (62 carries for 391 yards) and Rashard Mendenhall (118 carries for 337 yards).
Mendenhall is reunited with his offensive coordinator from Pittsburgh in Arians. Ellington was a sixth round pick in April and has flourished lately.
While Arians is known as an offensive mastermind always searching for a big play, it’s been the Cardinals defense that has dominated in 2013.
Arizona has allowed the ninth fewest yards per game in the league with the second ranked rush defense (81.4 rushing yards per game) leading the way.
It’s been an opportunistic defense for the Cardinals this year with their 22 takeaways ranking third in the NFL.
However, Arizona has committed 21 turnovers, the fourth most in the league and rank 31st in converting just 31.5 percent of their third-downs.
Sunday’s matchup is one of just two contests between a pair of teams over .500 in the NFL this week.
2013 Record: 6-4, tied for second in the NFC West.
Head Coach: Bruce Arians, 1st season as Cardinals head coach (6-4 in the regular season).
2013 NFL Rankings: Offense – Overall, 19th (326.4); Rushing, 25th (85.6); Passing, 15th (240.8) Defense – Overall, 9th (324.9); Rushing, 2nd (81.4); Passing, 20th (243.5).
2013 Leading Passer: Carson Palmer (224-of-358 comp., 2,573 yards, 62.6 pct., 14 TDs, 15 INTs).
2013 Leading Rusher: Andre Ellington (62 carries, 391 yards, 2 TDs).
2013 Leading Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald (45 receptions, 554 yards, 6 TDs).
2013 Leading Sacker: John Abraham (7.0).
2013 Turnover Breakdown: Plus 1 (15th in the NFL).
2013 NFL Draft Results: In trying to improve a struggling offensive line, the Cardinals chose guard Jonathan Cooper with the seventh overall pick in April. Unfortunately, Cooper broke his leg in the third preseason game and will miss the entire regular season. Arizona had one of the more interesting picks in the third round when they selected troubled cornerback/safety Tyrann Mathieu. The LSU product has performed quite well for the Cardinals secondary. The steal of the draft came in the sixth round as Clemson running back Andre Ellington is now the team’s leading rusher.
2012 Review: The Cardinals were the early surprise of the 2012 season winning their first four games including a victory on the road against the Patriots. However, Arizona would go on to lose 11 of their next 12 games and the team would fire head coach Ken Whisenhunt after six seasons, including a NFC Championship in 2008.
Last time in Playoffs: 2009 season. Lost to the New Orleans Saints, 45-14, in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Last time in Super Bowl: 2008 season. Lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23, in Super Bowl XLIII.
Super Bowl Championships: None.
2013 Pro Bowl Selections: WR-Larry Fitzgerald, CB-Patrick Peterson, ILB-Daryl Washington.