As the Detroit Lions kick off their regular season against the Arizona Cardinals, here are four keys to a Motor City victory.
Facing the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, the Detroit Lions start the 2017 regular season with a difficult matchup. But it’s a winnable one.
Opening at home, in Ford Field, the Lions have a chance to begin their season with a “W” and frankly, they need this early victory to set the proper tone for the new year. Therefore, we present our four keys to a Detroit victory over Arizona on Sunday.
#1. Keep Matthew Stafford Upright
This one is pretty simple. Keeping the most expensive player in NFL history on his feet and off his backside as much as possible is critical to the Lions’ coming out victorious in any game. But that might be more difficult than it sounds with several new faces occupying Detroit’s offensive line.
The Lions will need instant chemistry to be built between new left tackle Greg Robinson, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Ricky Wagner. It’s a big ask in Week One, but all three will need to up their game against a stout Cardinals’ defensive line.
#2. Run the Ball
The Lions made the playoffs last season with a non-existent running game. With the combo of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick back in the backfield and seemingly healthy, Detroit’s offense has a chance to be much more balanced in 2017…and more successful.
The Lions flashed what a dynamic offense they can be with a solid ground attack early last season, prior to Abdullah’s season-ending foot injury in Week Two. Facing the Cardinals’ elite defense, one that ranked second in the NFL last season, Detroit will need to be effective on the ground in order to take the pressure off of Stafford and the passing attack.
#3. Contain David Johnson
Arizona running back David Johnson is likely the biggest dual threat in the entire NFL. Last season, the former third round selection out of Northern Iowa in 2015 posted an incredible 1,239 rushing yards plus 80 catches for 879 receiving yards and a combined 20 touchdowns, all on his way to his first Pro Bowl nomination.
There is no one single player the Lions’ defense must contain more than Johnson on Sunday. That will be a tough task for a very young defensive front seven in Detroit, which includes first round selection, linebacker Jarrad Davis, who will be making his regular season debut.
#4. Sack Carson Palmer
If there is one area that might be considered a weak spot for Arizona it’s under center. The Cardinals are coming off a disappointing 7-8-1 record from last season. And their 37-year old quarterback, Carson Palmer, could be most to blame.
Palmer threw for 4,233 yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2016. But his completion percentage of 61.0 was his lowest in four years and his QB rating of 87.2 was the lowest in three.
But the biggest key stat could be quarterback pressure, as the Cardinals either lost or tied every game they played last season when Palmer was sacked three or more times in a contest.
So getting pressure on Palmer could be the biggest key of all to a Detroit Lions’ victory. And with the anticipated return of pass rusher Ziggy Ansah, after missing training camp and preseason due to a knee injury, Detroit is hoping his presence along the defensive line jump starts that pressure on Sunday.