Andre Ellington Heading into the 2013 season, Arizona was only expected to be a bump in the road for their big brothers in the division - the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.

After eight games, the Cardinals find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt.

If the playoffs began today, the Cardinals (4-4) would be one game behind Detroit (5-3) for the sixth and final spot.

With quality wins over potential playoff teams (the Carolina Panthers and aforementioned Lions), expectations are rising in Glendale, Arizona.

Arizona has been led by their defense throughout the season, ranking No. 2 overall in interceptions and No. 5 in run defense. Their offense on the other hand is No. 2 in turnovers with 18.

Quarterback Carson Palmer has struggled, due in large part to the lack of a dependable rushing game to alleviate pressure.

Enter Andre Ellington. The rookie running back burst onto the scene Sunday against the Falcons in his first career NFL start with 15 carries for 154 yards and one touchdown, averaging 10.3 YPC. Prior to this game, Ellington was already showing flashes of big-play ability; averaging 5.8 YPC on 28 carries.

Ellington is no stranger to big plays, as evident by his illustrious college career at Clemson where he scored 36 touchdowns and averaged 5.8 YPC. Ellington slipped all the way to the sixth-round (187th overall) of the 2013 Draft due in large part to his slower-than-expected 4.61 in the 40 yard dash. However, at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds, the Moncks Corner, South Carolina native has shown the size/speed combination needed to be a full-time starter in the league.

With superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald facing double coverage on a regular basis, a threat in the run game is exactly what this team needs to open things up for the pass game. For his part, Ellington also has showed off his excellent hands, catching 22 passes so far this season.

After Arizona's Week 9 bye, the team hosts a reeling Houston Texans squad that has the No. 28 ranked run defense. Ellington will be fresh and ready to prove to the league that being passed over 186 times was a costly underestimation.