For the second straight week, the Detroit Lions will be matching up against a top-five defense. This time, they’ll be on the road against the star-studded Arizona Cardinals secondary.
According to Football Outsiders, the Cardinals have the fifth most efficient defense. They’re ranked fifth in pass defense and fourth against the run using their DVOA formula. Though FO gives them praise for their pass defense, they’re still giving up the third most passing yards per game (274.2).
Though many are pointing to the matchup between Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Antonio Cromartie may be having the best year for Arizona in their secondary. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) currently has Cromartie as the fourth highest graded cornerback out of 106 players, while Peterson is ranked 70th.
Peterson has already been flagged for 12 penalties this year, which is by far the most out of any cornerback. If I’m the Lions, I don’t mind the matchup between Peterson and Johnson. It may be better to target Peterson with Cromartie playing so well.
Arizona’s offense is a lot less desirable. With Carson Palmer recently suffering the second ACL tear of his career, Drew Stanton will be taking over under center for the rest of the season.
Stanton is completing just 49.5 percent of his passes this year with just 6.6 yards per attempt. If Detroit’s front-seven can rattle him early, then they have a great chance of succeeding.
The rushing attack of the Arizona Cardinals leaves a lot to be desired as well. They’re 29th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (83.6), and 30th in yards per attempt (3.2). To put that in perspective, the Lions are averaging 3.1 yards per rush in last place. As bad as the Lions have been running the ball, the Cardinals aren’t much better.
DT Ed Stinson – Toe – Out
LB Desmond Bishop – Hamstring – Questionable
LB Lorenzo Alexander – Knee – Probable
S Deone Bucannon – Quadriceps – Probable
RB Andre Ellington – Foot/Hip – Probable
RB Stepfan Taylor – Calf – Probable
DT Dan Williams – Elbow – Probable
The Arizona Cardinals are a 1.5 point favorite via Vegas Insider.
Keys To Winning
If the Lions want a share of the lead atop the NFC, they’ll have to create a couple of turnovers against the uninspiring Cardinals offense.
The Lions have relied on their defense to keep them in games all season, and that’s not going to change this Sunday. If the offense can just keep the ball secure and score a few points, then they have a great shot at winning. The Cardinals are currently forcing 2.1 turnovers per game, which is good for second in the NFL.
University of Phoenix Stadium is an extremely tough place to win on the road, and the Lions haven’t won in Arizona since 1993.
I think the Lions will keep it close yet again, but this time they won’t be so lucky towards the end. The Lions’ #1 ranked defense will come up huge and maybe even create a touchdown of their own, but it will be their offense that continues to slow them down against a top defense like Arizona’s.
Final Score: Cardinals 17, Lions 16