So far, the 2-0 Cardinals have gotten it done with offense in a big way and their defense hasn’t been too shabby either considering they’ve held on to win both of their games so far. This game was a point of contention for the Lions in 2019 given how the team collapsed and tied the Cardinals which set a promising season backward, so they will be looking for a measure of revenge this time around.
Here’s a look at what sets the Cardinals apart this season.
Cardinals Player to Watch: Kyler Murray, QB
No offense intended to all of Arizona’s other weapons such as DeAndre Hopkins, but this game will be all about Murray and what he can do scrambling, extending the play and making big throws. Last season the Lions figured Murray out for 3 quarters in his first start, but after he got comfortable, Murray looked much better. This time, the Lions can’t let Murray run wild and make the kind of plays he has early on to get himself into dark horse MVP conversations very early in the season. Murray has been great and quite a revelation, and he is the focal point of the Detroit defense this week. With another great start, Murray will officially have Detroit’s number and perhaps announce himself as a big problem in the league for the foreseeable future. It’s a big game for Detroit head to head from this perspective.
Cardinals Key Position Group: Linebacker/Edge
Thus far this season, the Cardinals have 7 sacks and they are evenly distributed between the team’s edge and linebacker group. Haason Reddick, Devon Kennard, Zach Allen, Chandler Jones, Angelo Blackson and Jordan Phillips have all gotten to the quarterback so far this season. Detroit’s line struggled at times with protection in Week 2 and they will need to give Matthew Stafford ample time to survey the field and make good decisions. 7 sacks might not seem like a lot, but to a team like Detroit which hardly rushes the quarterback, it’s a crooked number. Arizona can get after it, and the Lions need to be very considerate of their front.
Can Cardinals Defend?
Yes. So far, the Cardinals have a top 10 defense in the NFL, and are allowing 221 passing yards per game to go with 121 rushing yards. They’ve also only allowed 35 total points thus far as part of their 2-0 start. Arizona is stout on the back end of their defense and can still get after it in the trenches, which will make for a hard battle for the Lions. The good news? Kenny Golladay is a lock to return, which means some deeper passes could be had for Detroit. There’s also the chance for the Lions to run a bit, but for the most part, the Cardinals have done a nice job on defense early this season as part of their resurgence.
Biggest Cardinals Injury: Mason Cole, C
Cole missed Week 2 with a hamstring injury, and while it didn’t look as if it hurt the Cardinals, it’s never easy to subtract a key piece along the offensive front, especially when the Lions are trying to get their pass rush healthy. Cole will be a key piece to watch this week in terms of health and wellbeing if the Cardinals are to get themselves back on track.
Headset Heads Up
The Lions played the Cardinals to open last season and looked like the better team for 3 quarters. Then, they blew it in a nightmarish 4th quarter. So quite possibly the most important question between now and then is what has changed specifically? Can Matt Patricia’s defense rise up and find a way to stop the Kliff Kingsbury offense? Last year’s frustrating finish doesn’t lend to much hope that this is possible, but the staff has a new chance to prove itself this season by bottling up the game plan they had for the first half of the 2019 game against Kyler Murray. It will be fascinating to see how this duel will play out given what happened last season.