A glance at five top storylines for the Cardinals-49ers game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:
A new QB, more or less
Drew Stanton will be starting at quarterback again for the Cardinals. Carson Palmer is still dealing with a bruised nerve in his throwing shoulder and it's kept the veteran quarterback from not even practicing, much less playing. There is the chance he will be ready to play against the 49ers Sunday, Stanton will still end up getting a second straight start. Beating the Niners with a backup isn't the ideal choice, but the Cardinals continue to believe in their ability to rally around their reserves that are forced into action – and Stanton is the best example of that.
In three starts against the Cardinals in his career, Kaepernick has averaged 279 yards passing and a couple of touchdowns per game, numbers that are shiny for a QB who has been inconsistent. The Cardinals haven't had the best pass rush, and now they take on a quarterback who can get outside the pocket and run if they do cause trouble. The best bet is to get some heat on Kaepernick – even without a sack – and force him into bad decisions on his throws, which he will do.
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson did not play well in New York. He felt it had to do more with his mental state and frustration with the officiating than anything else. Now comes a game in which Peterson will be in the spotlight. He has not played well against the 49ers' Michael Crabtree; it's tough to tell with Antonio Cromartie now just how much Peterson and Crabtree will match up but Peterson could use a bounce-back game. The secondary should be a strength of the Cardinals and they were inconsistent in New York. The group needs to raise its game. This is a perfect stage in which to do so.
Turnovers matter, as usual
The Cardinals have lost nine of 10 to the 49ers. The simple reason? Turnovers. In that stretch, the Cardinals have turned the ball over a staggering 30 times, while the 49ers have just seven turnovers. It's a ratio that spells disaster in the NFL, and something that must be rectified. Stanton said the best thing he did in his start last week was not turn the ball over, and while the quarterback play will have to be better against San Francisco – whoever is in the pocket – taking care of the ball remains essential.
Protecting the nest
The 49ers' fans descended into Dallas in the regular-season opener and you could tell the visiting contingent was there even though the Cowboys were at home. It will make for an interesting time at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday, to see exactly how many San Francisco fans can get into the building and if the Cardinals still will have what has become a pretty significant home-field advantage. It was loud at the end of the game against the Chargers and it made a difference for the Cardinals. They will need that kind of boost again Sunday.