A glance at five top storylines for Sunday's Cardinals-Rams game at University of Phoenix Stadium:
- QB or not QB
Carson Palmer was limited this week with a right elbow injury suffered against the Eagles, and while he may end up playing against the Rams, missing practice time creates concern about how sharp he can be. Palmer did throw for more than 300 yards last week and three touchdowns after getting hurt, but it's late in the season and he has taken a lot of hits. As a veteran, it may behoove the Cards to let him take it easy if necessary to save him for Sundays, but that could be undone if the Rams' pass rush can get to him.
- The mighty Quinn
Speaking of what the Rams can throw at the Cardinals, it starts with defensive end Robert Quinn, who blew up for three sacks and two forced fumbles in the first meeting and has piled up 13 sacks total this season with six forced fumbles. He and bookend defensive end Chris Long made life hard for the Cards in Week One. Now new left tackle Bradley Sowell will get an opportunity after Levi Brown was there in the first go-round, but the Cards know the pass rush will be difficult with which to deal.
- Rams run, Cards stuff
Rookie Zac Stacy wasn't a factor early in the season, but he is now, and it isn't a coincidence St. Louis is running the ball better now than it was in September. The Cardinals are pretty good at stopping the run, though, especially at home. Against a team that has Kellen Clemens at quarterback, a chance to turn the Rams toward the pass is probably smart. That doesn't mean the Rams can't be effective in the pass game – most notably with emerging playmaker Tevon Austin – but the Rams are rushing for 147 yards a game since Week Five and that is their bread-and-butter.
- Taking the ball away
Here's how important takeaways have become to the Cardinals these days: If they had just gotten one in Philadelphia – or more specifically, had they just not had one negated by penalty – the Cardinals are confident they would have won. And that's after giving the ball away three times themselves. The seventh-ranked defense needs to bounce back from a performance that wasn't up to standard in Philly, and it would be helped greatly by stealing the ball away a time or two.
- NFC West wish
The message to the team is winning division games. Some take that to heart more than others – Darnell Dockett said he is going to go as hard after the Eagles or Colts as he would an NFC West foe – but the reality is winning against the NFC West will dovetail nicely with the Cards' quest to stay in the playoff chase. There is also the reality of an eight-game losing streak within the division, dating back to the opener of 2012 when the Cards beat Seattle. The Cardinals have to find a way to snap out of that, given three division opponents in the last four weeks.