A glance at five top storylines for the Cardinals-Chiefs game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:
Finding the end zone early, if not often
The Cardinals have scored just three offensive touchdowns in the past three games and no matter how well the defense might play – and they didn't play well at all last week in Atlanta – that's points production that isn't going to win many games and it sure won't win many division titles. Larry Fitzgerald should be back on the field this week (we'll see how much he will be able to contribute) but this is a team that will rise and fall offensively on the ability of quarterback Drew Stanton to lead some scoring drives. The Chiefs have a good defense. It's not an easy task, but it's what the Cards face.
Houston, let's hope there's not a problem
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he sees the Kansas City pass rush on par with the Seahawks. It's probably a good thing that the Cards should have starting left tackle Jared Veldheer available to play despite a gimpy ankle. Veldheer has only given up one sack but can he keep stud Justin Houston (14 sacks already) from getting to the QB? And that's not all the Chiefs have, with veteran Tampa Hali out there and Dontari Poe able to attack from the middle of the defensive line. The Cards have to protect Stanton, and give him a chance.
Being on the right side of the turnover ledger
The loss in Seattle was more about a lack of offense than turnovers; One interception led to only three points and that was it. But in that game, the defense couldn't force a turnover. In Atlanta, Rashad Johnson not only made a pick but ran it back 88 yards for a touchdown. It was a perfect scenario, except for the two Stanton interceptions and the bad fumble by Michael Floyd. The Cards won often for so many weeks because they protected the football and stole it away on defense. Can they get back to that formula?
Images of past matchups against this week's opponent, Kansas City
Making sure Charles isn't in charge
Alex Smith isn't Matt Ryan, or Russell Wilson, and he definitely isn't Peyton Manning. He can throw but it isn't Smith's passes that will hurt – other than the fact he doesn't take sacks and doesn't throw interceptions. He'll play it safe. So there is a lot riding on the Cardinals' ability to slow running back Jamaal Charles, who is having another fine season (807 yards, 5.0 yards a carry, eight touchdowns) and is the guy the Chiefs lean on to make their offense go. The Cards' defense is salty after allowing a 100-yard rusher for the first time in 21 games; they'd like to take it out on the Chiefs.
The comforts of home
The best stat the Cardinals have compiled all season: An undefeated (6-0) record at University of Phoenix Stadium. The last two weeks have been played on the road, and while that doesn't excuse the poor play (especially in Atlanta), it is harder to win on the road and the Cards have turned their home into a true advantage. Stanton also plays better at home, so hopefully that will play into the Cardinals righting their ship. That isn't to say the Cards have had an easy time at home – every game was within a single score in the fourth quarter – but if there was a setup to snap the losing streak, this is it.