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Five Things To Watch: #AZvsIND

A look at the top storylines heading into Sunday's game


Five things to watch for in the Cardinals-Colts game Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis:

From Humble Rumble to the Kerwych

Here the Cardinals get to find out, probably not all that enthusiastically, what life without David Johnson is like. The Cards have been here before. Andre Ellington was supposed to be the feature back in 2014 and got hurt and the Cards used some Kerwynn Williams to muddle through. Even without Carson Palmer that year, the Cards still won 11 games when it was over. The issue, of course, is how much the Cards' offense leaned on Johnson. The scheme and the plays don't necessarily change, but the way they are deployed does. And there is fair concern about the passing game these days, especially with John Brown not 100 percent.

Paging Carson Palmer, paging Mr. Carson Palmer

The quarterback had a bad game. He admitted it. Now, with the running game shifting and questions about the offensive line – which is dealing with injuries too, most notably to left tackle D.J. Humphries – Palmer has to rebound. It's not just for his sake but for the team, which will be watching to see if their leader just had a hiccup in Detroit or if it might be the harbinger of something else. Palmer looked fine in camp and in his preseason work. It shouldn't have played out that way against the Lions. It can't play out that way against the Colts.   

Assessing the luck without Luck

The Cardinals will not face Andrew Luck (although that wasn't a big deal in 2013, when the Cards shut him down in a 40-11 win). The Colts quarterback has a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since last season. It means the QB is going to be the struggling Scott Tolzien or newcomer Jacoby Brissett, who was just acquired before the first game. Coach Chuck Pagano hasn't announced who will start, but neither are Luckian in their abilities, or anything like Matthew Stafford. In other words, the defense has to find a way to dominate.

Getting on the right side of the turnover ratio

Justin Bethel's pick-6 was important last week, but when the offense is turning it over four times – three Palmer interceptions and a crucial lost fumble by Johnson that turned the game – the Cardinals are not going to win. Palmer needs to play better, the offensive line must improve and the Cards have to find more rushing yards than they did in Detroit. But if they cannot take care of the ball, and also force another turnover or two, the other stuff usually won't matter.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown of being heavy favorites

As bad as the Cardinals felt after losing to the Lions, they did not lose 46-9 to a Rams' team that shouldn't be beating anyone 46-9. The Colts aren't that bad (no NFL should ever be that bad) and will have the crowd behind them in their home opener. But the Cards are favorites and should be favorites. They have to play like it, and avoid an upset that would make for an incredibly ugly beginning to the season.

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