Week 15: Detroit Lions At Arizona Cardinals
- QuarterbackThe Lions are falling apart, having lost five straight games after hitting the .500 mark at 4-4. While the Lions don’t know how to close out games, Matthew Stafford certainly knows how to build them. Stafford has thrown for 4,006 yards with 17 touchdowns. He has size, strength and can fire the ball a long way with his quick release.It’s not shocking that the Cardinals have lost nine straight games at this point in the season. The big question is how they ever won their first four games. The quarterback play has been abominable because the offensive line can’t protect the passers and none of the Arizona signal callers have thrown the ball with accuracy or confidence.
- OffenseBased on the weapons the Lions have on offense, they should be one of the most explosive teams in the league. Calvin Johnson is probably the best receiver in the league. He has the size, strength and reach to make big catches over the top of the defense. Running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell have been just good enough to make opponents respect the ground game.The Cardinals have one of the best receivers in the league, but they can’t take advantage of his superior physical talent because the offensive line has been awful and the quarterback play has been poor. Andre Roberts has caught 53 passes for 675 yards in a complementary role.
- DefenseBased on the numbers, the Lions’ defense is playing solid football. The Lions rank 13th in defending the pass and 13th in overall defense, yet they give up key drives in the fourth quarter that result in painful losses. Defensive end Cliff Avril is a solid pass rusher who has 9.5 sacks so far this season. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch leads the team with 90 tackles.The Cardinals rank 12th in overall defense and 5th against the pass. The defense has held up fairly well, but it is not good enough for them to overcome the miserable showing of the offense. Linebacker Daryl Washington leads the team with 108 tackles and he also has 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery. Cornerback Patrick Peterson leads the team with 6 interceptions and he also has 18 passes defensed.
- Special TeamsThe Lions have struggled on special teams all season. They have given up two punt and two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season. Placekicker Jason Hanson does not have the strongest leg in the league, but he is dependable on kicks under 50 yards. Punter Nick Harris has struggled with his consistency.The Cardinals have struggled with their return coverage all season. Peterson is one of the most talented returners in the league, but he has not had a return longer than 26 yards this season. Jay Feely has a strong leg and has made 20-of-23 FG attempts this year, including a 60-yarder.
Both of these teams are stuck in miserable death spirals, but compared to the Cardinals the Lions are the New England Patriots. Stafford gives the Lions a first-class passing attack and if the Lions can build the early lead they normally get, they should be able to hold on against the punchless Cardinals.