Cardinals Should Not Be Favored to Beat Lions
I can’t believe the Arizona Cardinals are still favored to beat the Detroit Lions. There is a drop off at quarterback from the injured Carson Palmer, to backup Drew Stanton. Originally drafted by the Lions, Stanton did keep the Cardinals winning earlier in the season. Also, not to kick a guy while he’s down, but Palmer didn’t necessarily have the offense playing at a high level.
Offensive, defense, and special teams, have all contributed to the NFL’s best record at 8-1. The Cardinals are easier to run on, but the secondary has gotten healthier and Patrick Peterson is finally playing like he did in 2013. He forms a physical tandem with veteran Antonio Cromartie. They played man against receivers, which has burned them but only resulted in one loss so far, and it has tremendously helped against the run.
Giving credit where it’s due, they’ve been good enough and taken advantage of every opportunity. Especially without Palmer, buyer’s beware in terms of them not only beating the Lions, but maintaining contender-ship in the NFC. They beat the San Diego Chargers on opening day, it was a home game that they scored 12 points in the 4th quarter to win. The other wins, better or not, they caught teams at the right time and that kind of thing happens. They met the New York Giants when with a battered offensive line, then the San Francisco 49ers without a few key starters on defense. Out of their week 3 bye they got blown of the water by the Denver Broncos, it wasn’t even a game. After that, they proceeded to beat these injury riddled and/or weaker teams: Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles (only 2 starting O-linemen), Dallas Cowboys (Tony Romo got injured), and the St. Louis Rams (banged up O-line, no Brian Quick, backup quarterback Austin Davis).
Not to say they didn’t go out and win those games, because they very well did, but they sure haven’t been challenged like the other contenders. All a team can do is play who’s on their schedule, they so happened to catch a break almost every single week. Reminds me of the Kansas City Chiefs last season, they caught nearly every team with a backup or inexperienced quarterback for the first 10 games. Evidently, as some of us suspected, they would not be able t keep their winning ways down the stretch against better teams, that includes the postseason.
Bruce Arians is having another Coach of the Year worthy season. When I looked at this team, the O-line is mediocre at best, and the tight ends are merely blockers. Now, they have a backup quarterback to finish the season. Can Andre Ellington continue to be a workhorse? Defenses can now focus their game plans on him, without Palmer, and he has been tough by playing through a foot injury. How long can he keep going though? Larry Fitzgerald recently showed that he has plenty left in the tank, at the expense of Michael Floyd, who broke out last season but hasn’t been involved as much. John Brown is a fast receiver that you’ve probably seen catch a deep pass by now, can these guys still make an impact with Stanton under center? Arians is a quarterback whisperer, but minimizing his trio of quarterbacks with turnovers is not likely to continue. Too many questions for the offense moving forward.
Even good defenses can only bend so much before they break. If the offense becomes stagnant and struggles to score points, that yardage-friendly secondary could get torched some more. They are currently ranked 30th against the pass, and if they get behind, that 3rd ranked defense will start to give up more carries and statistics too. The best defense is a good offense sometimes, but even with a productive Ellington, that O-line doesn’t give him much room and they are 29th in rushing.
All this, without even speaking about the Lions yet. This week, expect the Cards to play with pride, showing a group effort after losing their starting QB. I don’t think that will spill over into the second half. They could very well beat the Lions, who have a history of letdowns. As for this week and this season, this may actually look like a well-coached team under Jim Caldwell. The talent has been there without structure, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt to get this win on the road. Defense travels, and theirs has been the absolute best in 2014. Calvin Johnson returned last week, he had a tough matchup against Brent Grimes, but 16 targets is too much and Megatron racked up triple digits and a score. Golden Tate looks like one the best offseason acquisition, along with Emmanuel Sanders, and all of a sudden he’s almost an automatic hundred yards every week.
Matthew Stafford, for the most part, has taken the underneath passes to his versatile backs, instead of forcing countless throws downfield that result in interceptions. Reggie Bush may be out for this game, but by this point, Detroit should be accustomed to his absence. Joique Bell is a good back, and Theo Riddick is so shifty, when all three were healthy, they gave him snaps in the slot just to get him on the field. Now he’ll get extended playing time, and the guy I’m talking about caught the game-winning pass last week in Miami.
The front-7 is as good as they come, which has made the secondary look better than they really are. It’s a blueprint and it’s working, they are winning the battles in the trenches and the box. For once this season, the Cardinals are getting a dose of their own medicine. Detroit is playing on the road against the streaking Cardinals with only one loss, but I believe they start the downward trend and beat the spread. And as I write that last line, I double-check the odds, and this is now a pick ’em game. Still, the Lions should be favored here so I would take advantage. I told others around me for last week’s game between the Lions and Dolphins, that was a pivotal game for both teams. It was especially pivotal for Detroit, who would historically lose that game in letdown fashion, but they pulled out the win on the final drive. That showed me that they are for real, that they are legitimate contenders, and I think they take care of business in the desert.