Five things to watch for in the Cardinals-Jaguars game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:
Gabbert vs. the Jaguars
Blaine Gabbert's time as a No. 1 pick was relatively short – three years, and basically two seasons, to prove he wasn't the answer at quarterback. There were a lot of factors there, and it's all water under the bridge now. Still, Sunday means a chance for Gabbert to go against his old team, coming off arguably the best (and at least one of the best) games of Gabbert's career. That doesn't say a ton for his career, but Gabbert was solid as Cardinals starter. Then again, he's going against a much, much better defense than Houston – especially in the secondary. If Gabbert is able to exact any revenge, he will have earned it.
Campbell vs. the Cardinals
The Cardinals are the only team Sunday with a player facing his former squad for the first time. Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell – you remember him, don't you? – returns to the stadium that he called home for nine seasons, a place in which he was beloved. Campbell is tied for the NFL lead with 11½ sacks, stationing himself outside on first- and second-downs in the 4-3 alignment and then moving inside on the four-man line in passing situations. He's also, in Calais fashion, already become a fan favorite in Jacksonville. Campbell isn't the type to be angry about things, and made it clear he understood the business decision the Cards made to let him go because the Jaguars offered a huge contract. But make no mistake – Campbell will want to make his impact on this game.
Three yards and a cloud of dust
Can the Cardinals find a way to run the ball? Their running backs are averaging only about three yards a carry this season, one of the lowest averages for any team over the past 17 seasons. The Jaguars are only middle of the pack when it comes to run defense, but they were much worse early in the season, before trading for former top 5 draft pick Marcel Darius. Clearing room for Adrian Peterson will be a priority, although that doesn't mean it will be simple or easy.
Holding up on the line of scrimmage
The Jaguars are leading the NFL in rushing at 160.6 yards a game. Rookie Leonard Fournette leads the way with 740 yards and he's been held out of one game for disciplinary reasons and is still dealing with an ankle sprain. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon are also capable backs. The Cardinals may still be without defensive linemen Corey Peters and Josh Mauro, adding to the test the Cards will have. The problem in Houston was the Texans were able to run well enough to get in third-and-manageable situations. The Cards have to slow the ground game and force Blake Bortles to beat them.
A homestand begins
The Cardinals are playing three in a row at home, all against playoff contenders. The Jaguars first, then the Rams, then the Titans. Playoff hopes are dim for sure. But finding a way Sunday to leverage the home crowd and that emotion into an upset of the first-place Jaguars would go a long way toward driving the Cardinals the rest of the season knowing there are no plane flights in the near future.