A glance at five top storylines for Sunday's Cardinals-Falcons game at University of Phoenix Stadium:
- Watching Palmer
The offensive line will be under scrutiny as usual, but it's clear that quarterback Carson Palmer has to snap out of the funk he has been in, which includes two interceptions in every game since the opener. Coach Bruce Arians has given no reason to think he'll make a change soon – to the contrary, he has defended Palmer – but this important stretch of games will determine the course of the Cardinals' season and, perhaps, Palmer's as well.
- As always, 5>3
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was intercepted five times by the Cardinals in last year's game in Atlanta. This year, Ryan has just three interceptions in six games. The Cards would like to have him revert to the guy they harassed last year. It's no guarantee – don't forget last year, Ryan's no-TD, five-pick game still ended in a 23-19 Falcons win – because the Cards' offense has to do something with the ball. But I heard a recent stat that a home team that ends up plus-one in the turnover department wins 87 percent of the time in the NFL. That's pretty powerful evidence.
- Tony Gonzalez, another killer tight end
Cornerback Patrick Peterson didn't sugarcoat it. "Tight ends been giving us hell lately." Peterson chuckled when he said it, but it's been painfully true. The question is whether the Cards can effectively limit Gonzalez this week, and do it in a way in which they aren't sliced and diced elsewhere by Ryan. The plus is that Gonzalez, unlike Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham, isn't going to streak down the field and catch bombs for TDs. But that doesn't mean he can't hurt the Cards.
- Abraham against his former mates
Veteran linebacker John Abraham lamented for weeks his inability to get his first sack as a Cardinal, and then got two in the last game against the Seahawks. The timing was perfect, now that he now sees the team that he played for for seven years and let him go in March because of age and salary. Many players say playing their former team doesn't mean a ton, including Abraham. Don't believe it. It almost always means a lot, and the way Abraham has looked this week, I'm guessing he is pretty jacked up to go against the Falcons.
- The business of playing at home
Someone asked Palmer this week about the importance of taking care of business at home. "I kind of let my wife take care of business at home as much as possible," he deadpanned. Ah, but this is no laughing matter now. If the Cards seriously want to remain in a playoff hunt – which is still very possible, given the schedule and the lump of teams in the middle of the NFC pack – they need to win their home games. The Falcons aren't at full strength but they are still a quality team.