A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Rams game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:
An upright Palmer is a happy Palmer. And Arians. And fanbase.
The facts are these: In two games against the Rams last season, the Cardinals lost their starting quarterback both times. Carson Palmer's knee gave out – non-contact – in the first meeting. Drew Stanton hurt his knee in the game at St. Louis, ending his season. The Rams are going to come hard and their pass rush is something to fear. And you can't get away from the collateral damage – Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was lost for at least a month after he hurt his knee on a Rams' hit last week. There is no more important factor in the Cardinals' season than Carson Palmer's health.
Get out early -- again
In three games, the Cardinals have not trailed. At all. That's a reason they have been able to force-feed the run, and one of the reasons the defense – especially the last two games – has been able to rear back and be ultra-aggressive. Bruce Arians admitted there was no way to think the Cardinals would win by 40 last week – and he's right – but playing with a lead in a close game is still better than playing from behind.
On the ground, a proper way to attack
Chris Johnson ran for 110 yards last week, showing that the team's run game is indeed alive and well. What's more, the Rams gave up 124 yards rushing in the opener to the Seahawks and then 182 to the Redskins. The Steelers were held in check last week – 62 yards – but if the Cardinals can carve out some yards on the ground with Johnson and Johnson (and maybe Ellington?) it'll go a long way in protecting the hits on Palmer.
Foles, the pick, and the #NoFlyZone
Unlike Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles doesn't fall into a turnover trap very often. It helps that the Rams try to be more balanced, knowing they have a good defense upon which to fall. But Foles has thrown just one interception, coming into a game against a team that leads the NFL with seven interceptions – returning three for touchdowns. In fact, the turnover battle has been huge in the Cardinals' 3-0 start. They have scored 41 points off turnovers, and allowed only six points in the same category.
The NFC West breeds rivalry, as does history
Bruce Arians and Jeff Fisher have been coaching against each other for years, especially during their AFC stints. Plus, the Rams and Cardinals have been battling since Arians arrived for respect in the rough-and-tumble NFC West. Last year's game in St. Louis, a gritty 12-6 win for the Cardinals that featured the season-ending knee injury to quarterback Drew Stanton, provided a window into the emotion – although that was in part driven by all the injury blows the playoff-bound team was absorbing. The Rams are still battling to climb up the division ladder, and the Cardinals have to make sure they don't do it by stepping on their own plans.