A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Saints game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:
**Motivation in a season gone sideways
The playoffs are probably not going to happen. The Cardinals got that message last week. So now what? This week, it's about finishing at home. With two losses and a tie at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cards haven't come close to giving the home fans what was expected. But there is more than that. If the insistence of Bruce Arians that the Cards were still playing to win didn't resonate, having the cold splash of water that was the Michael Floyd release should make everyone understand the microscope is on these last three games.
"Dreading" the offensive line
Carson Palmer kept hearing the questions about his health in relation to his decimated offensive line. "I'm not dreading it as much as it sounds you guys are dreading it," Palmer said. That's always good news, although it's fair to wonder just how this line – however the Cardinals construct it Sunday – can hold up. Center A.Q. Shipley and left guard Mike Iupati remain in place. But left tackle D.J. Humphries – a backup to begin with at that spot – is still in concussion protocol, so John Wetzel will likely get his second shot at that position. Earl Watford continues to move around, now landing at right tackle. And the right guard will likely be Taylor Boggs, who has had precious little game experience over his few years in the NFL. How much this changes things offensively is to be seen – if at all – bears watching.
Seeking stability in secondary
With Tyvon Branch down again, the Cardinals again are trying to figure out what to do in nickel situations. Tyrann Mathieu is hopeful he can play this week, but that isn't certain. It's hard to think Justin Bethel will get a lot of defensive snaps after Bruce Arians' comments about his struggles. Maybe Brandon Williams gets more time – the rookie ended up playing 18 snaps on defense last week. The Saints are a team looking to find their missing passing game, with Drew Brees having two of his worst games in a long time the past two games. The Cardinals don't want him fixing his problems this week.
Loss of Buc more than money
The Cardinals have created so much news this week, from the playoff-crushing loss in Miami to Arians' blunt press conference to swapping punters to signing local favorite Scooby Wright to Michael Floyd's release, perhaps one of the most important developments of the week dropped below the radar – the end of the season for money linebacker Deone Bucannon. Veteran Sio Moore will take Buc's spot in the lineup, a much more traditional linebacker and perhaps one that doesn't fit the three-down persona as easily as Bucannon does. The versatility of the defense takes a hit without Bucannon in the lineup, and while Buc's year hasn't been as consistent as he played in 2015, it's a major loss.
The future of Fitz
With Floyd now a Patriot, the Cardinals have to shuffle their receiving playing time again. Maybe John Brown can play more. Maybe J.J. Nelson will finish the season with the consistency he and the coaches seek. Maybe Brittan Golden can build on his first NFL touchdown. Mostly, though, it'll mean that much more attention on Larry Fitzgerald. It's been a difficult week for Fitz, with the rough season for he and the team and the release of his friend Floyd. On top of that, could this be Fitz's final home game? He hasn't said for sure he will be playing in 2017 (to be fair, he hasn't said he isn't, either.) It's something to consider as you take in his play at University of Phoenix Stadium for the final time this season, regardless.