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Five Things To Watch For: #AZvsDET

A look at the top storylines for Sunday's game


Five things to watch for in the Cardinals-Lions game Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit:

Rested and ready – Time to prove the plan for Palmer

Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer are convinced Palmer entered last season with a tired arm, caused by too much offseason throwing. By midseason, Palmer was taking Wednesdays off to stay fresh. That mindset has continued all offseason and into camp, and Wednesday, Palmer was again sitting. He says he feels great. The Cardinals need him to feel great. But it only matters if Palmer and the offense can perform on the field. Palmer looked solid in his limited preseason snaps. Time to stretch it out.

So Chandler, do you remember Greg Robinson?

There were things the Cardinals didn't do well last season but one thing they did do was rush the passer. The Cards led the league in sacks, and linebackers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden were the biggest reasons. They need to pressure Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford by going through a revamped offensive line that already has suffered a blow. Left tackle Taylor Decker tore his labrum in the offseason, meaning former Ram Greg Robinson – who struggled with Los Angeles and couldn't handle the Cardinals pass rush when the Cards and Rams met in the 2016 season finale – is protecting Stafford's blind side.   

The target on David Johnson

A goal of rushing for 1,000 yards and gaining 1,000 yards receiving is admirable. It's also realistic, given what David Johnson proved last season. But make no mistake, Johnson – if he wasn't already – will be the main target for every defense he sees in 2017. Until and unless the Cardinals' passing game can find its consistency again, Johnson will be needed on offense and will be the focal point of defenses. That's not unusual for a bell cow back like Johnson – ask Le'Veon Bell, or Ezekiel Elliott – but it is a reality with which the Cardinals and Johnson must deal.

Bethel on an island

Justin Bethel's time has finally arrived. He was supposed to be the No. 2 cornerback last year, and with injuries and other problems, it didn't work out. He's earned a chance to do it one more time, with his contract set to expire after the season and his financial future riding on his performance. Oh, and teams are going to go his way a lot to avoid Patrick Peterson. No pressure. We'll all know how deep Bethel's improvement goes sooner rather than later.

Wipe the sleep from your eyes

Arians says kickoff times don't matter. Palmer says they don't matter (coming home from late East Coast night games, that matters, he said.) No Cardinals are going to blame the early start, but that doesn't mean it can't have an impact. The Cardinals have gotten out on the field around 10 a.m. each day this week in preparation, and the Cards fly to Detroit Friday to get an extra night of acclimation. The Cards have six early kickoffs this year – including London, which actually will be a night game over there – so dwelling on start times doesn't do any good. 

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