The three biggest things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Browns at State Farm Stadium:
Number One, There Are Heismans – OK, Boomer Sooner?
No, quarterbacks don't directly face each other. But even Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield know there is something special about Sunday's game, when the two friends who happen to have won the Heisman Trophy and were drafted No. 1 overall in back-to-back years coming out of Oklahoma, face off Sunday. Neither are fully formed NFL quarterbacks yet. Mayfield finished his rookie year strong but has certainly had his ups and downs in Year No. 2 for the expectation-laden Browns. Murray has mostly been impressive but has slipped the last couple of games while his team is mired in a six-game losing streak. There are issues with both teams in plenty of places other than behind center. But the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and the draft status of both Mayfield and Murray puts them square in the spotlight. Besides, they are like brothers in the backyard, seeking bragging rights. This is personal, in a good way.
Turnovers Lost, Ball Security (Needs To Be) Found
The Cardinals had been among the best in the league all season in taking care of the ball. Then Murray threw four interceptions over the past two games – granted, one came in the waning moments as a hope and a prayer heave – and the first two against the Steelers were gut punches, cutting off scoring drives on a team with little margin for error. The Browns turn the ball over themselves and the Cards would benefit from winning the turnover battle Sunday. But those aren't the only negative plays Murray and the Cards must avoid. The sack total against Murray has climbed again – 11 in the past two games – and the rookie and his blockers have to find a way to significantly trim that down. Getting into and-long situations helps no QB, especially one going through some bumpy times.
Kitchens, Wilks And Kingsbury, And A Victory Needed
Freddie Kitchens had a long 11-year coaching career in Arizona, working with tight ends, quarterbacks and running backs. Steve Wilks had a shorter stint in his one season as head coach. Still, I'd think both would have reason on a personal level to desperately want to win this game. Then again, even without anything personal, the Browns figure to desperately want to win this game. Kliff Kingsbury certainly has no ties to the Browns or Kitchens, or even Wilks other than the fact he was his replacement. But he too, with the Cards mired in a six-game losing streak, needs a win. One game does not define a season, for either of these teams or any of these coaches. But in the moment, the meaning Sunday is undeniable.