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Saturday Five: Ravens at Cardinals

Check out the top storylines for Monday night's game


A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Ravens game Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium:

**Green light in the red zone

The math has been pretty simple. In four wins, the Cardinals are 16-for-17 in the red zone. In two losses, they are 2-for-9. Touchdowns win games, and the Cardinals have shown they can score touchdowns. There is no one reason why it hasn't worked in the losses. There has been an inability to run it in from close, but the Cardinals have run it in at other times. Carson Palmer missed his targets a couple of times – and threw one bad interception – but he's also got 14 touchdown passes. As Palmer said earlier this season, they don't have to have a 90 percent conversion rate, but they do need 50 percent.

Time for Palmer is paramount

The Ravens have piled up 18 sacks already, and keeping QB Carson Palmer upright and active has been a priority of the offense all season. The Cardinals were able to pass the ball plenty last week and Palmer had decent protection.  What would also help would be a return to the run game that had been so dynamic prior to the Pittsburgh trip. The threat of the run does wonders in slowing a pass rush.

Ice up, son

The Ravens have one receiver that really draws a defense's attention these days – the soon-to-be-retiring Steve Smith Sr. Smith has suffered a back injury and he's older, but he's still had a couple of 150-yard games this season and figures to be Patrick Peterson's assignment. Given both he and Peterson's predilection to, um, chat during games, it's a matchup that should provide entertainment throughout – and one the Cards need Peterson to win.

Ravens do close, so Cards must find their 2014 close

The 1-5 Ravens have yet to play a game decided by more than six points. Their one win was by three. Their five losses were by six, four, four, three and five points. They aren't winning, but they aren't losing by much either. That's the NFL, really. Even the bad teams usually aren't that bad. But it means the Cardinals figure to be in a close game, and so far, close games haven't gone as well as the Cards would have liked. In both losses, the Cards had the ball with a chance to take the lead with about two minutes to go, and in both cases the Cardinals couldn't pull it off. You can't have that happen at home again.

Protect the nest. Seriously.

The Cardinals have their one home loss. They can't really afford to give games up at University of Phoenix Stadium, and they particularly can't give up games on their home turf knowing that as-of-now undefeated Cincinnati and Green Bay will still visit, as will Seattle. Piling up home wins is a must, so making sure the Ravens fly home with yet another defeat is crucial in any kind of playoff quest. 

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