Lions vs. Cardinals Preview
Detroit will open up a season at home for the first time since 2014, facing off against the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona came into last season with high expectations and a lot of promise, with a ton of young talent surrounding the veteran presences of Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, & Larry Fitzgerald. Instead, the Cardinals found themselves finishing 7-9, with five of the losses by a touchdown or less. In a sense, they were what the Lions could have been if not for the comebacks made by Matthew Stafford and company.
What’s Good: Carson Palmer, like Stafford, is a former number one overall pick (2003) and his arm talent is still one of the best in the league. With playmakers like Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and the preseason #1 fantasy player David Johnson at his disposal, there is no doubt that the former Heisman Trophy winner is in a position to put up points. On the defensive side, the defensive backfield of Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu make for a fast, playmaking secondary. Both Peterson and Mathieu are known for their tackling ability as much as their skills to play the ball when it is in the air. Add in rookie linebacker Hassan Reddick, touted as one of the more NFL-ready talents by many scouts, along with 2016 draft pick Robert Nkemdiche to the defensive line, and you have a defense on the verge of turning some heads.
What’s Bad: Inconsistent play has plagued Palmer his entire career, and last year was no exception. His passing yards last year eclipsed 4,200 yards, but his 14 INTs and 40 sacks loom over his head. Similar to Stafford, Palmer has all of the arm talent in the world but has never been able to make that next step to the elite status. On the defensive side, there is a lot of young talent that are unproven and inexperienced. Nkemdiche shows promise, but needs to be able to stay on the field. Reddick is a great addition, but rookies come with speed bumps. Mathieu and Peterson are strong, but without pressure, no defensive backfield is safe. For all of the talent this team has, there is a reason they managed to lose a few winnable games last season.
What’s Good: Stafford just became the richest player in football, and did so because he loves playing in Detroit and is excited for the future; I don’t blame him. Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Eric Ebron is a good start to building a good corps of skill players. Add in the offensive line upgrades of TJ Lang and Ricky Wagner, and you have yourself an offense ready to explode. On the defensive side, General Manager Bob Quinn spent Detroit’s first two picks in this year’s draft on defense. Jarrad Davis, their first, is going to be the week 1 starter at middle linebacker. Add in Ziggy Ansah back at full strength, A’Shawn Robinson and Haloti Ngata up front, with the secondary of Big Play Darius Slay and former NFL interception leader Glover Quin, you have a strong defense looking to prove themselves.
What’s Bad: Injuries to the offensive and defensive line in preseason hurt (Taylor Decker into November, Kerry Hyder for the season) and there will need to be some young backups stepping up to fill in. Stafford came off a career season in regards to decision-making, but for him to expect to repeat that is out of this world. Eight comeback victories is not sustainable, and finishing games off comes from the running game. Abdullah and Riddick staying healthy is a must for this team to succeed. Add in an extremely young linebacker core that was the worst in the NFL last year, and you have a team that needs fast maturity to make a run this year.
Final Decision: Lions win 27-17
Home game, week 1, in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. I like the Lions here. Abdullah shows why he’s ready to take the load with over 100 total yards and the Lions finish the game in the 4th quarter with a four minute drive for a touchdown.