Adelaide has surprised many outsiders so far this year with its impressive start to the 2016 season.

Despite the Crows winning an elimination final in 2015 and retaining most of their core group of senior players, not one of's reporters tipped them to finish in the top eight this season.

On paper, others said the Crows' midfield looked thin, their backline shaky and they were facing a nightmarish opening eight rounds with a new coach at the helm.

But at the halfway point of what loomed as a baptism of fire for Don Pyke, his side has instead constructed a finals launching pad.

Since narrowly going down to North Melbourne in Round One, they've beaten Showdown rivals Port Adelaide and downed an inconsistent Richmond, scoring 82 points directly from turnovers.

And in a litmus test on Saturday night, they outlasted the red-hot Sydney Swans in an Adelaide Oval epic, stamping themselves as a team to watch as the season continues to ramp up.

The Crows appear to be playing better football across the park this season, but with a particular a focus on team defence.


The Crows are also unselfish in attack, spreading the load through midfield and pouncing on turnovers, but also protecting the ball with their slicker disposal – a long-standing bugbear of fans.

Adelaide's contested ball differential has fallen from nearly +10 (third in the AFL) last year to almost -2 (ninth in the AFL) after a raft of list changes at the Club over the summer.

But they are holding their own, with many impressive youngsters joining a few evergreen veterans to help carry the load.

Scott Thompson has been in vintage touch and remains a beast around the ball. Rory Sloane is winning more of it out of the centre square, and the emerging supporting cast in Matt Crouch, his brother Brad, Jarryd Lyons, Rory Atkins and ex-Magpie Paul Seedsman are all stepping up after playing just 50 games between them in 2015.

The midfield is deeper than many originally gave credit, while defensively the Crows are fighting against the odds.

The backline has been put under the pump, conceding the third most inside 50s competition-wide and the 10th-most points.

Despite the barrage of incoming ball, Adelaide isn't allowing opposition marks inside 50 (seventh fewest marks against, up from 12th last year) and the Crows are scoring enough on the counter-attack when the Sherrin hits the deck or is intercepted to paper over the cracks.

Scoring 'out the back' is the modern way, and the Crows are perfecting ballistic slingshot footy.

Electric Eddie Betts and new sidekick Wayne Milera terrorise defenders, Josh Jenkins and Tom Lynch are no slouches, while raw 191cm young gun Mitch McGovern has added to arguably the most damaging forward setup in the game.

The usual suspects Betts (13 goals), Jenkins (11), Lynch (10) and Taylor Walker (9) are hitting the scoreboard, but McGovern (five) and Richard Douglas (five) are also chipping in to the AFL's second most potent offence.

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The Crows boast the AFL's second-most potent offence – only undefeated North Melbourne has scored more – however Adelaide is facing another huge challenge to prove its can match it with the best against Hawthorn at the MCG.

When the teams met in last year's Semi-Final, Adelaide endured a 74-point humbling.

On Friday night, we'll see just how far the Crows have come.