The Cardinals' defense started slowly this year and bottomed out against the Rams in Week 7. After the 33-0 loss in London, the team ranked 31st in the NFL in points allowed.
The next week, the players spoke adamantly about the need to improve, and they have.
The Cardinals' defense has played well in all but one game – Houston -- since Carson Palmer went down, and while the team is still just 26th in scoring defense, multiple advanced metrics agree that the defense has been above average on the season.
Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings peg the Cardinals as the ninth-most effective defense in the NFL. Pro Football Reference has the unit with 13.34 expected points added on the season, which is 11th in the NFL. ESPN's formula has the Cardinals as better than break even on defense.
Points allowed is a pretty basic statistic, and doesn't account for field position or touchdowns by opposing defenses. The more advanced analytics break defenses down on a play-by-play basis, which is a better indicator of future performance.
Sunday's win over the Jaguars is a good example. The Cardinals' defense gave up a paltry 219 yards of total offense, but Jacksonville put up 24 points due to Calais Campbell's fumble recovery for a touchdown and a score after a long kick return.
The Rams come to town for Sunday's rematch still clicking on all cylinders offensively. While Blaine Gabbert has been solid in his two games as the starting quarterback, once again the onus will be on the defense to lead the way. This time, it seems more prepared to do so.