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Friday Five: Cardinals At Dolphins

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


A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Dolphins game Sunday in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium:

**A last chance at the East Coast

The Cardinals were 7-1 on the road last season, and yes, they have had road trips this year that have been further away. Still, the "early starts" topic can't fully explain the issues – in fact, the Cardinals scored early enough in both the Minnesota and Atlanta losses that those defeats cannot be laid at the feet of time zones. The team leaves today for Miami. There will be time to acclimate. The Cards haven't made it work in Buffalo, Carolina, Minny or Atlanta. One chance left.

David Johnson runs, but David Johnson really catches

It's been a week of David Johnson, because the running back a) deserves it and b) has slowly seeped into the national consciousness. He would certainly be in the MVP discussion if the Cardinals had a better record. He is still the team's best hope to drive wins. At this point, Johnson is a key running the ball – over 1,000 yards already – but now comes the push for 1,000 yards receiving. He needs 296 yards catching over the final four games. It's not unrealistic, and the way the Cards' passing game has unfurled, Johnson's pass-catching skills are needed to drive that part of the offense as well.

Trying to reclaim No. 1

The Cardinals, for the first time in a while, are not the league's No. 1 team in total defense. The unit is now No. 2, falling behind the Ravens. The Ravens moved up to No. 1 after a great performance against – wait for it – the Dolphins, who the Cardinals now get to face this weekend. It's not as if Miami doesn't have offensive weapons. Ryan Tannehill has been better, especially during the Dolphins' now-snapped six-game winning streak. And running back Jay Ajayi has had his own breakout season. The Cards' defense closed well against Washington. They'd like to turn Sunday's game to a drive back to the top of the rankings.

The all-time list isn't the only receptions list Fitz is climbing

Larry Fitzgerald surpassed Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison to reach third on the all-time catches list last week. But this isn't just about the long-term for the veteran wideout. His 88 catches are tied for the most in the NFL and he remains the Cards – with all due respect to Johnson – best receiving option. Yes, Fitz is averaging a career-low 10 yards a catch, but they are usually crucial nonetheless.

Momentum is calling

Just a week ago, we were talking about the Cardinals trying not to have a three-game losing streak for the first time in the Arians era. Now the possibility of a two-game winning streak holds with it many possibilities – not the least of which being the opportunity to climb seriously back into playoff thoughts. With a home game against the Saints to follow, the Cards can build toward a spot where they could be right in the mix with two games left. Yes, they still need a lot of help. But the Miami trip is a crucial hurdle to make what's left meaningful.

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