While many within the Cardinals fan base and those that cover the team in some capacity, Jess Root and I included, had this team at 5-1 heading into this stretch of games, many outside of those parameters seem to be marveling at the fact the Cardinals are tied for the best record... IN THE NFL. (Technically it is the second best record because the Cowboys are 6-1, but you get the point).
While the schedule has been good so far, the Cardinals took a huge hit on opponents winning percentage playing against the Raiders, and with the losses by the Chargers, Giants, and 49ers dropped them to the 11th toughest schedule in the NFL.
What is upcoming for the Cardinals though is ten weeks and ten games that ranks as the fifth-hardest in the NFL. This stretch will test not only their strengths, as they will face some of the best running teams in the NFL (they have only faced on of the top 15 in yards per carries thus far), but they get teams that are winning.
St. Louis and Atlanta are the only two teams on their schedule the rest of the way that have a losing record right now, and while you and I would be surprised to see the Cardinals lose at home against the Rams, remember they have to travel to Atlanta and St. Louis is on a short week, a Thursday in St. Louis, after taking on a good-looking Kansas City team the game before.
What have the Cardinals done so far?
They have shown that they can win without a good offense. That have scored only 12 offensive touchdowns on the season, good for an average of two touchdowns per game or 26th in the NFL. Some perspective -- this puts them just above the Titans, Raiders, Jets, Jaguars, Bills and Vikings, a group of teams considered to be the worst in the NFL.
From there, they are averaging 317 yards per game, good for 28th. Remember before the season started when some were predicting Carson Palmer would throw for 5,000 yards or more? That would be 312 yards per game; Palmer is at 269 yards per game in the air so far this season.
Defensively, they rank 31st in yards per game given up against the pass, they have seven sacks on the season and they give up 5.8 yards per play, while their offense only gains them five yards per play.
Then how have they gotten to 5-1?
Simple, the stats paint a picture, but they do not tell the story.
We all are aware that the Cardinals have the best run defense in the NFL, but they also have allowed only 14 touchdowns and six field goals on the season. Even though they allow a ton of yards through the air they are tied for ninth in touchdown passes allowed at 10 and they are third in interceptions and interception percentage.
Not only is their defense good, but their defense does not have to be on the field a ton, as they are ninth in opponent time of possession per game, partially because they do not allow first downs, 117 given up on the season and only 21 by oppositions running the ball.
Offensively, when they have the ball, they score at a 39.7 percent rate, the best of any Arians-led offense in his time as an offensive coordinator or head coach. Sure, they do not score touchdowns, but their drives are eating up time, they are getting the team into good field position, and they are making their field goals, 15 on the season is tied for the second most in league.
The biggest thing though? They do not turn the ball over.
They are the sixth-best team in terms of drives that end in a turnover, or turnover percentage, at 5.9 percent, and four of the five teams above them are considered Super Bowl contenders, Seattle, San Diego, Denver and Green Bay with the one outlier being the upstart Cleveland Browns.
The Cardinals head coach's mantra in 2013 may have been "Sixty and Sexy" but his teams have never been more plain Jane and that is okay.
We all expected a lot from this team. We expected three 1,000 yard receivers; they may get one. We believed they would have a running back who would put up 2,000 all-purpose yards; it's looking more like 1,600. We expected an an offense that made the scoreboard look like the Times Square Christmas Tree. Instead, it is one of the more pedestrian in the league right now. None of that is happening and that's all right, because all that matters in the end is winning.
They do not have the ferocious pass rush of the Lions and Broncos, or a cool nickname for their secondary like the "Legion of Boom" but what they do have, what matters the most, is wins.
Acclaim and recognition for this team and organization will come, if the wins continue, because how they are winning, what they are doing on the field is not very pretty, but the result, through six weeks, is beautiful to all Cardinals fans.