Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions: Preview and Prediction
The wait is finally over, and the Arizona Cardinals will start the regular season tomorrow. Arizona will face the Lions for the eighth time after seven consecutive wins dating back to 2006 when the Cardinals met them for the first time at University of Phoenix Stadium.
So this year let’s go one week at a time. We will take a deeper look at each game and what matchups you should watch.
Cardinals Offensive Breakdown
It is no secret that this season will revolve around the success of Carson Palmer. Winning will starts up front with the offensive line. The Cardinals have made some significant changes to the line this year, and nobody knows what to expect fully. DJ Humphries has become the starting left tackle which has forced Jarrod Velhdeer to the right side. Humphries is a natural left tackle from his college days and has the chops to be very good. But we only got to see him in one preseason game, and he did well, but not great. Now that the real games have started Humphries success will be critical to this offense.
That is why I am so excited to have the Lions up first this year. Of all the teams we face this season, the Lions and Colts may have two weakest pass rushes on our schedule. This should give time to for Humphries to learn and grow on the fly and hopefully build some confidence.
The Lions best pass rusher has just been removed from the physically unable to perform list and has been limited all week at practice. Glover Quin is a good free safety and has played well against Arizona in the past, but he does not have much help. Including Quin, there is nobody on this Lions defense that can match up with David Johnson.
I expect the Cardinals to score at least 27 points on this shallow defensive squad.
Cardinals Defensive Breakdown
Arizona’s defense will not be at full strength with Deone Buchannon out for the season opener. This is going to put rookie Hassan Reddick into the starting lineup against two of the best receiving running backs in the NFC. Theo Reddick and Ameer Abdulla are two very talented backs. Every remembers that the Cardinals almost took Abdulla ahead of David Johnson in the draft.
Physically, the rookie linebacker can match-up with either of these two backs, but he has to have great eye discipline and not get pulled out of position with fakes.
Golden Tate is a beast of a receiver and is great running after the catch. The Cardinals put a huge emphasis on tackling this offseason, so we will see if it pays off. Tate does a lot of work from the slot which will make his battle with Tyrann Mathieu very enjoyable. I am expecting the Cardinals to play a lot of zone against the Lions. New offensive coordinator Jim-Bob Cooter has changed the Lions attack to a west coast style. The short drops by Mathew Stafford and quick routes are tough to defend in man coverage. Also, the Lions don’t have a real outside threat for Patrick Peterson to shadow in this match.
I like Stafford, and I expect a great game plan from the Lions, so the defense may need time to adjust. I think that Arizona has the more talented team and will make the big play on defense when it is needed. The Lions should be able to put up at least 20 points tomorrow.
Special Teams Breakdown
Arizona has had a major overhaul and in my opinion, upgrade on special teams. Phil Dawson is a very accurate and confident kicker. He may not have the leg strength that Catanzaro had, but he is much more dependable. Andy Lee is aging and coming off of an injury, but he is a former all-pro punter and has exceptional talent with directional kicks. Lee has held for Dawson in San Francisco, so there should be no issue with the mechanics on kicks like we had last year.
On Coverage, Justin Bethel is back to full strength after playing with a torn ligament in his foot last season. Britton Golden is on the roster as well as Scooby Wright III for special teams coverages. These three guys are exceptional at covering kicks and punts and should give the Cardinals a field position edge tomorrow.
The Cardinals win 27-20, and we see how well the defensive and the offensive line can mesh. They are the key tomorrow as they are in most games, but getting off to a good start is critical.
Let me know what you think on The Long Ball’s Facebook page or Twitter @lennyletcher.
Finally, I will be doing some commentary during the game on Snap Chat @lennyletcher there as well if you have questions live.