Week 3 - Lions @ Cardinals preview
Lions start 0-2, and it doesn't get any easier.
Those of you who have any sort of memory will recall the opening day last season where Detroit had a 14 point lead at the half, and a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter only to tie after overtime.
That was Kyler Murray's first NFL game, but look how far he's come already since then. As a dual-threat QB, along with Mahomes, Jackson, and Wilson he's right up there with the premier talent in the league.
Looking back to the Cardinals' previous game with Washington, they won 30-15 but in reality, were in control throughout and the score flattered Washington. Murray (barring one poor INT) was faultless, moved the sticks seemingly at will. He finished 26 of 38 for 286 yards, 1TD, 1INT but with two rushing touchdowns on 6 carries for 67 yards, one of which was a lovely 21 yard rush at the start of the fourth quarter.
Another weapon that Arizona has is the HC, Kliff Kingsbury. At 20-0 with 9:39 in the third, it was 4th and 1/2 on their own 27.5-yard line, and they called a fake FB run into an end-around to Christian Kirk for a 2 yard gain. That tells you everything about this team.
The following possession gives a hint as to the way to win against this Arizona team. Washington hit them with several screens and outside rushes utilising the RBs and TEs and they marched down the field before being stopped in the red zone.
QB - a proper dual-threat who can beat you in the air or with his legs, he is also terrific at selling play action.
RBs - Drake and Edmonds - Drake had a breakout year last year and Edmonds is no slouch.
WRs - Possibly the best receiving core in terms of depth as well as quality. Hopkins, Fitzgerald, Isabella, Kirk in Kingsbury's famous air-raid 4 WR offense. Hopkins was a monster in week 1 with a career-high 14 receptions for 151 yards on 16 targets and continued to produce with 8 for 68 in week 2. Attention on D Hop & Larry Fitz allowed Isabella and Kirk to catch 2 each for both over 28 yards per catch.
DL - Washington and San Francisco both suffered with 4 and 3 sacks against, and 9 and 6 QB hits respectively.
Defensive play generally - They are ranked no. 8 in defensive efficiency by Football Outsiders, allowing the 2nd lowest 17.5 points per game through two weeks, including 1st in 3rd down conversion rate on defense (26.1%), and 1st in red zone defense (28.6% TD rate) (all info per azcardinals.com)
OL - Arizona gave up 2 sacks and 3 QB hits against SF and 4 sacks and 9 QB hits against Washington. Granted these were against some of the best D-lines in the NFL but it highlights something to try and exploit. These stats are potentially inflated with Kyler's propensity to run the ball.
That's it. This is a well-rounded group that performs well in total offense and defense.
Ways to win
The first point is highlighted above. Screen plays, outside rushes as well draws. You must keep this defense off-balance, and we also need to protect Stafford who has had an iffy start so far.
Keep Arizona's defense on the field (and therefore, their offense off it). The drives must be slow, long and wear out that defense, grind them down. Winning the time of possession will be key.
Realistically this is going to be a hard one. Per Paddy Power, the Lions are 2/1, Cardinals 2/5. The handicap is +5.5, and the over/under at 54.5.
Pre-season I had a 3 point win and I'm regretting it.
How do you feel about the game? Is my assessment fair, or might we do even worse? (I won't hold out hope for the alternative!) Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.