Five things to watch for in the Cardinals-Rams game Sunday at Twickenham Stadium in London:
AD vs. TGIII. Who ya got?
Obviously, the addition of Adrian Peterson looks like a godsend to the Cardinals. Scuffling for weeks after the David Johnson injury, the Cards now look like they have a running game to balance out the offense. It's funny, because it's the opposite for the Rams, which brought along QB Jared Goff enough to make running back Todd Gurley more effective. Gurley has been Johnson-esque, not only showing the running talent that made his a top-10 pick but also morphing into a pretty good receiver. It's simplistic, but it feels like Sunday's winner will be the one with the more productive running back.
Chandler Jones, and getting to Goff
Goff is playing much better than he did as a rookie. This is not the same guy the Cardinals pummeled in the season finale in 2016. But he is not a finished product, and he did not have a great game last week in Jacksonville. That the Rams still won the game is a testament to their defense and special teams, and that they are a team that can overcome less-than-good QB play. But mostly Goff has been good this season, which is where Chandler Jones comes in. Jones has seven sacks in six games, has played at a Pro Bowl-level, and he has caused problems for every quarterback thus far. The Cards need that to continue.
Special teams spotlight
The main reason the Rams were able to win last week because if special teams. There was a punt block for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown, and those are the kind of "extra" scores teams usually can ride to victory. The Cards have been better on special teams but not great, and each game is a test. This is an area the Cardinals must hold up, because away from home, special teams malfunctions tend to cause major problems (and we won't go into Patrick Peterson aggravating his quad injury because he was returning a punt last week.)
On the other side of Patrick Peterson
Patrick Peterson said he'll be fine when it's time to play Sunday. But what about the other side? Will veteran Tramon Williams take the starting job from Justin Bethel? We know Williams is going to play more, but we'll have to see how much more. The Cardinals found out against the Bucs what life is like in the secondary when P2 cannot play, and it was not good. Williams is a smart veteran. His speed is not what it once was, and certainly not at Bethel's level, but Bethel still has been beat deep more than the Cardinals want. The tinkering has not stopped at the position.
A London payoff before the bye
The Cardinals have spent the week in England preparing for this game. It's an NFC West matchup, a chance to tie the Rams in the standings, and the Cards have a bye following the game. Coming up with a win – especially after the emotion of the Adrian Peterson debut victory a week ago – is crucial on many levels. Not only does it keep the Cards in the division race, it'll go a long way in showing the bounce-back wasn't a one-week aberration.