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Friday Five: Rams At Cardinals

Check out some of the top storylines for Sunday's game


A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Rams game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:

**For starters, how about a score?

The Cardinals were so good at coming out in a game last season and marching down the field for points. It happened often. This season, it hasn't. The Cardinals have yet to score a first-quarter point period. That's alarming. But it can also change quickly. This would be a good time to do it. Starting the second half with a score – something Bruce Arians specifically referenced this week – is also important. It changes the tenor of a half dramatically.

Blocking Donald, or duck

Aaron Donald, through injuries to teammates, was lined up multiple spots last week for the Rams. All that does it make it harder to block one of the best defensive lineman in the game. Depending on the availability of Evan Mathis this week, the right side of the line – with center A.Q. Shipley and tackle D.J. Humphries and perhaps Earl Watford if Mathis can't go – will be severely tested. That group struggled with the Bills last week. Donald will be seeking meetings with Carson Palmer, and the Cards can't let that happen.

Finding Floyd

Clearly the Cardinals' passing game needs to find consistency. They've had it with Larry Fitzgerald and with Jaron Brown. But they need Smokey Brown, and they really need Michael Floyd. Floyd's slow start is a surprise in a year where he is chasing a new contract. As he said this week, if he just pulls down a couple of deep 50-50 balls that he might've grabbed, the narrative is different (and add a pair of 40-yarders, of which he's had opportunity, his yardage numbers almost equal Fitzgerald's.) Just make the catches that are there – like the one to open Sunday's game against the Bills – and the Cards will be much better off.

Gurley cannot get loose

Passing is not what the Rams do best. In a perfect world, their defense and riding running back Todd Gurley would be the formula. Gurley hasn't exactly gotten off to a great start – he has 183 yards on 63 carries, less than three yards a tote, and needed 27 attempts to get 85 yards last week – but he is dangerous. The Cardinals know that after he exploded for 144 yards in the second half of last year's Rams' win in Arizona. It's noteworthy Gurley had just 38 yards rushing against the Cards in their 2015 rematch in St. Louis. So they know how to shut him down. After last week's leaky rush defense against the Bills, they must prove it.

The division starts now

Two games in five days could very well direct the Cardinals toward how their season will play out. First comes the Rams on Sunday, then another NFC West game on Thursday against the 49ers. The Cardinals went 4-2 in the division last season, but they also went 9-1 outside of the division – and already, the Cards have two losses outside of the NFC West. With the Rams at 2-1, falling two games back this early would not look good – especially with a handful of tough matchups around the corner with the Jets, Seahawks and Panthers. If there wasn't urgency, it really must show now. 

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