W2W4: Indianapolis Colts-Arizona Cardinals

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
9:30
AM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Here are four storylines (outside of the Chuck Pagano-Bruce Arians reunion) to pay attention to in Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts-Arizona Cardinals.

Start fast: This has been an area of concern for the Colts most of the season. It’s really been a problem the past three games. They’ve been outscored 66-9 in the first half of their past three games. Yes, the Colts won two of those games, but relying on a strong second half isn’t the right way to go about things, especially since that approach won’t work in the playoffs. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton scripts the first 15-20 plays. The Cardinals have outscored their opponents 49-37 in the first half of their current three-game winning streak. The Colts don’t have the offensive weapons outside of quarterback Andrew Luck and receiver T.Y. Hilton to come back against a team like the Cardinals, who have two dangerous receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.

Pressure Palmer: Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards against Jacksonville on Nov. 17. He threw for that many yards because the Jaguars allowed him to sit back in the pocket and pick them apart. Put pressure on Palmer and it’s a different game. Memo to Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, the league leader in sacks: The Cardinals have an atrocious offensive line. Palmer has been sacked 27 times and he’s thrown 15 interceptions. The Colts will be without starting linebacker Erik Walden (suspended) and cornerback Greg Toler (groin) on defense.

Play with urgency: Win Sunday and the Colts will be able to wrap up their first AFC South title since 2010 with a victory over the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 1. The Colts will likely still win the division if they stumble against the Cardinals, but the sooner they win it, the better their odds will be to get one of the top two seeds -- likely the second seed -- and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Chris Rainey: The David Reed experiment at returning kicks has to stop at some point, right? Reed has been more of a disaster than an impact player in that area this season. Reed is 12th in the league in kickoff returns at 23.8 yards, but what’s not accounted for is how many times he’s attempted to return kicks 7 or 8 yards deep in the end zone. So why not give Rainey, who the Colts signed last week, a shot? He possibly can’t do any worse. Pagano said late last week that no decision had been on if Rainey will be active for the game. But Rainey did have a good first week of practice. “He’s very explosive for a guy being out for the amount of time that he’s been out,” Pagano said. He’s really been amazing, to be honest with you. He’s a great athlete. He’s got tremendous quickness, speed, acceleration, burst, football instincts. Catches everything -- punts and kickoffs, catching balls out of the backfield, running the card team, the look team for us. Didn’t miss a beat. It looked like he’d been playing for somebody for the last whatever, so he looked good.”

Mike Wells

ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter

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