The Detroit Lions may have a chance at a Week One victory if their defense can hold Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson.
The preseason is finally over. The Detroit Lions initial 53-man roster has been submitted. We are days away from football that means something. This is the part of the season that football fans can be most hopeful.
Week One of the regular season starts off with a major challenge for the team, hosting the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field. The last time they visited the Lions, in October 2015, was during the worst start to the season since 2008 when the team went winless. That game caused Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to get benched in the third quarter after throwing three interceptions.
This year should be a much different game as the Lions have been getting better, and the Cardinals are aging. This could be the last season they have quarterback Carson Palmer or wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, both aging players thought to be less than elite starting this season. The Cardinals offense will run through running back David Johnson this season, and the key to beating them will be slowing him down.
If the Lions defense is able to hold Johnson from running wild throughout the game, and not commit any mistakes, Palmer will be forced to throw and the secondary should feast. While last season linebacker Tahir Whitehead allowed an incredibly high completion rate when targeted, he was very astute at stuffing the run. Rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis has shown the same skill this preseason, and much better in coverage.
We saw this defense get cut up by the New England Patriots during the preseason, but outside of two unfortunate offensive turnovers, the Lions were still in that game. The Cardinals are no Patriots. The Patriots also had the number one defense last season, and little has changed going into this season. Stafford is hungry this year after his injury last year, and with a healthy running back Ameer Abdullah they should be able to sustain a highly efficient offense.
It will be on the Cardinals defense to slow down the Lions offense, but this game should still be high scoring as even a good defense will have trouble with Johnson. If the Lions can hold him to 100 yards on the ground, 50 yards in the air, and two touchdowns it would be a win for the defense.
On offense, Matthew Stafford will need to have at least three touchdown drives to secure the win. If they come out stagnant and can’t build momentum this will be a loss. The first two games of this season are rough with the Arizona Cardinals and then the New York Giants, so even splitting those games will help the Detroit Lions onto the path of securing a division title.