A glance at five top storylines for Thursday's Cardinals-Seahawks game at University of Phoenix Stadium:
- Don't turn the ball over. Please.
The most amazing part of last weekend's loss in San Francisco is that the Cardinals stayed in it despite all the turnovers. Those kind of giveaways just cannot happen. Quarterback Carson Palmer bounced back nicely through the rest of the game after his first two picks, but there has to be a happy medium Palmer can reach without having the drastic ups and downs. The Seahawks are like the Niners, and will be looking to rough the Cards up for fumbles too. The Cards feel confident they can compete with the top teams in the division. But not if they derail their own chances by giving the ball away. In their three losses, Cards have eight turnovers.
- Avoiding beast mode
The Cards slipped at the end of the 49ers game against the run, and it ultimately cost them. As good as Frank Gore still is, Marshawn Lynch is the engine that makes the Seahawks' offense chug along. There have been few backs in the history of the game that have made a habit of ending up in a pile of bodies and still churn his way out of contact for more yards. He's a pain to bring down and the Cardinals must remember to all run to the ball because one or two tacklers usually aren't enough.
- Run downhill
It was not a coincidence the Cardinals' offense picked up when the running game made some inroads. Rookie Andre Ellington had another very good game against the 49ers – he breaks off a 10-plus-yard run every game, he's averaging seven yards a carry and he's picking up 10 yards every reception. He's going to get about seven carries and five catches a game. Will it increase? Maybe. But even Rashard Mendenhall averaged four yards a carry in San Francisco. If the Cards can carve out some room to run on the ground – the Seahawks are 11th in run defense – that would help since Seattle's pass defense is second in the league.
- Stop a possible Sherman's march
It's that pass defense that has to make the Cardinals hesitate. Cornerback Richard Sherman is a thorn in the side of most teams, but he beat up the Cards last year with three interceptions. His battle with Larry Fitzgerald is always a good one. But with Brandon Browner and Earl Thomas in the secondary, it's imperative the receivers and Palmer are on the same page. There can't be mix ups on routes. That's how turnovers happen.
- Short week, and it's gonna hurt
These two teams beat each other up. That's been true the last couple of years, and that's even when not a lot was on the line. Now, there is a lot on the line, with the Cardinals trying to keep pace with the first-place team. On top of that, both teams are going to still be sore from Sunday's battles – Seattle against Tennessee, the Cardinals against San Francisco. It will be crucial for the Cardinals to get up for the physical play from the outset and let nothing linger from a few days ago. Playing at home, with the energy of the home crowd, will help.