How Arizona Cardinals Are Emerging as NFL's Best Surprise in 2012

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2012

The Arizona Cardinals are the NFL's best surprise so far in 2012, and the team is taking the league by storm with a combination of elite defense and a sound, balanced offensive attack. 

Arizona currently stands undefeated at 3-0 after wins over divisional foe Seattle, the New England Patriots and, most recently, the Philadelphia Eagles

Last season, the Cardinals won the opening game and proceeded to lose six in a row en route to a mediocre 8-8 season, which was not good enough to make the postseason. 

This year, the Cardinals are on a fast track to a postseason appearance and potentially an NFC West crown. Here's how the Cardinals have managed to become the breakout team of the 2012 NFL season. 


Elite Defense 

Calling anything about the Cardinals elite before the season would have been insane, but the defense has transformed into a top unit in 2012. 

The unit is giving up only 13.3 points per game, which leads the league. It impressively limited the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady to only 18 points in Foxborough in Week 2. 

Thanks to outstanding pass coverage from Patrick Peterson and Adrian Wilson combined with a disruptive pass rush from Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, the Cardinals have one of the better units in all of football. 


Kevin Kolb

Going into the season, the battle between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton for the starting position was still a toss-up, but an injury to Skelton decided the job pretty quickly. 

Now, it does not look like Kolb will let go of the starting gig. 

In three games, Kolb has thrown for 428 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. His play has been unexpected, but it seems as if Kolb has potentially turned a corner. 

Kolb has been making great decisions and leading a balanced attack that keeps opposing offenses off of the field. If he continues to play this way, he won't lose his job, and the Cardinals could go a long way. 


Home-Field Advantage

The Cardinals have one of the better home-field advantages in all of football. The fans are loud and disruptive. 

This was most apparent when the Cardinals hosted the Seahawks in Week 1, and again this week when Michael Vick and the Eagles went down to the desert to get hosed. 

So far, the Cardinals have used their home turf to its fullest potential, and if that continues to happen, every team in the league will dread traveling to the desert. 


Can it Continue? 

The turnaround for Arizona was unprecedented, but it shouldn't be surprising if it continues for the rest of the year. 

A balanced offensive attack with an efficient quarterback combined with a disruptive defense will go a long way in the NFL, and the Cardinals have all of the above. 

It would be premature to say the Cardinals will make noise in the playoffs, but Arizona is a sure-fire playoff contender in 2012, and easily the biggest surprise of the early 2012 NFL season.