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3 questions and a prediction: Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams

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Posted at 1:49 PM, Sep 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-30 16:49:26-04

As NFC West division rivals, the Cardinals and Rams face each other twice a year. But Sunday will be the Cardinals' first game against the Los Angeles Rams in 22 years.

After last weekend's ugly defeat in Buffalo, the 1-2 Cardinals will look to pull back to .500 against the 2-1 Rams. The Cards will wear their black jerseys Sunday for the first time since Week 4 of last season, when they lost to this very same Rams team.

Here are three questions and a prediction for Cards vs. Rams, which begins Sunday at 1:25 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

1. Can Carson get right?

One season removed from an MVP-caliber campaign, real questions have to be asked in regards to Carson Palmer's ability to lead the Cardinals to another playoff appearance.

The 36-year-old quarterback just hasn't looked right since his disastrous NFC Championship Game performance at Carolina. Last weekend, he completed just 1 of 9 passes to open the game -- and while they weren't all his fault, he threw four fourth-quarter interceptions against a mediocre Bills passing defense. 

Palmer struggled at home against the Rams last season, but Sunday's game may actually be a favorable matchup, as the Rams' defense has been average in passer rating and passing yards allowed, and it has only recorded one interception and four sacks through three games. Can Sunday be the day we finally see the return of the 2015 Carson Palmer?

2. Can the Cards ground Gurley?

The Cardinals were among the NFL's best rushing defenses last season and picked up where they left off in their first two games of 2016.

And then...

The Cards allowed over 200 rushing yards to the Bills last Sunday, including over 100 yards and two touchdowns by running back and four-time Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy. 

Enter Rams running back Todd Gurley, who had his coming out party as a rookie when he rushed for 146 yards on just 19 carries at Arizona last season.

After what happened last week, the 6-foot-1, 227-pound Gurley has to be excited about returning to Glendale. Will Arizona's rushing defense show improvement against another elite running back?

3. Where art thou, Michael Floyd?

Wide receiver Michael Floyd set the tone for the Cards' loss in Buffalo by dropping a pass on the first play of the game. But the fifth-year pro who's set to become a free agent after this season has been an overall disappointment throughout Arizona's first three games, hauling in just nine catches on 24 targets and dropping a touchdown pass in the Cards' Week 1 loss to the Patriots.

Larry Fitzgerald has been his usual terrific self, but many expected this to be the year that Floyd stepped up as Arizona's No. 1 wideout. Alas, it hasn't happened, and while Palmer's subpar showings haven't helped, the fact is Floyd, who cleared concussion protocol earlier this week, certainly isn't playing like a man auditioning for a mega contract.

The Rams have only allowed one touchdown by a wide receiver this year but they've yielded a ton of yardage. Like Palmer, Floyd has an excellent chance to snap out of his funk and put up big some gaudy numbers Sunday. Will he take advantage of it?

Prediction:

Let's be clear: The Rams are 2-1, but they're not an elite football team. Case Keenum is a below-average NFL quarterback and the defense has been medicore (save for their win over Seattle, which seems to be more a situation in which a team just seems to have another team's number).

One of the few truly special things about the Rams is Gurley, but he'll be going up against a Cardinals defense with a chip on its shoulder after last weekend's embarrassment. 

Like Tampa Bay two weeks ago, the Rams will face the Cards in the wrong place (UOP Stadium) at the wrong time (after a humiliating defeat). As long as Palmer doesn't try to do too much, running back David Johnson should be able to pace the Cards against a Rams defense that has already allowed four rushing touchdowns this year.

The Cardinals haven't lost back-to-back games since the end of the 2014 season. It's a streak they'll continue for a while longer.

Cardinals 31, Rams 14