Cardinals' playoff hopes now hinge on Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer completed 27 of 48 passes for 269 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in a season-opening loss to the Lions. Leon Halip/Getty Images

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If there was ever a time for Carson Palmer to scrub a game from his memory completely, it's this week.

He needs to forget throwing three interceptions against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. He needs to forget one-hopping passes to receivers. He needs to forget the offense's issues between the goal lines. Running back David Johnson is having surgery on his dislocated left wrist and will be out for two to three months, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, which means Palmer will be needed by the Arizona Cardinals now more than ever.

Johnson was the center of the Cardinals' offense.

Now it'll orbit around the 37-year-old Palmer. And based on his performance Sunday, that may not be a good thing for the Cardinals.

Coach Bruce Arians summed up Palmer's Week 1 outing with just one word: "Poor." He criticized his accuracy and footwork, saying Palmer hurried throughout the game.

Instead of having one of the league's best all-around players to ease the pressure and responsibility on Palmer, he'll have the weight of the Cardinals' season -- and their playoff hopes -- resting squarely on the shoulders of his 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame. Poor games won't cut it anymore. Palmer needs to be better. He needs to be good.

He needs to be great.

Those were the expectations for this season. His aging right arm was treated like a star pitcher's on a five-day rotation. The Cardinals were careful with him. That'll continue this season. He doesn't throw on Wednesdays and barely throws on Fridays. A fresh Palmer was supposed to be a great Palmer, like the 2015 Palmer who had the best season of his long, esteemed career.

Then came a dip last year. That was supposed to be a blip, an anomaly. Then Sunday happened. Arians said Monday that Palmer put a "super" amount of pressure on himself and didn't shy away from blaming Palmer for losing the lead for the Cardinals. Two of Palmer's interceptions resulted in touchdowns, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

"Certain guys just put a certain amount of pressure on themselves and I think he felt like he had to go win this thing for everybody, and that's not the case," Arians said. "You've got teammates to do that for you."

But this is the case: Palmer has to be good enough to get the ball to those teammates so they can make plays. Even without Johnson, he has an arsenal in Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, Britt Golden, Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas.

It's well known that Palmer has what it takes to lead a team to a winning season and a run in the playoffs. But after Sunday's game and after the news that Johnson will very likely be out for up to three months, the question has to be asked: Can Palmer lead this team to the playoffs this year?

Palmer has to go out Sunday in Indianapolis and erase that question. With a remaining running backs room that had a combined 370 yards from scrimmage last season -- Johnson had 2,118 -- Palmer is the Cardinals' lone hope now. There's no reason to question whether Fitzgerald will show up this season. He's been consistent his entire career, and he's the reigning NFL leader in catches. The other skill players are role players.

That leaves Palmer.

As he goes this season, so go the Cardinals.

He began taking steps toward moving past Sunday's game and Arians is "very confident" that Palmer will be able to bounce back against the Colts.

"Just talking to him, you know? Formulating game plans already for Indy and bouncing ideas off of him," Arians said. "He's embarrassed like all of us because it's coaching as well as playing."

If Palmer doesn't start playing like he's capable, the Cardinals will be a lot more embarrassed come January.