Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Detroit Lions vs Arizona Cardinals: DET PK (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

In the Vegas look-ahead line, the Lions were -3 point favorites in this game at even money. It re-opened on
Sunday at 'pick em'. I'm not quite sure why they made the readjustment, but I expect this line will creep back up to -3. In fact, some shops have already begun to move the line as there are -1's and -1.5's popping up. I'd play this at anything under -3, and even at -3 I'd consider it.

When the Cardinals have the ball

I'm not a fan of Carson Palmer. I'm even less of a fan with him behind a poor offensive line. Granted, he's an obvious upgrade than what the Cards had the last couple years, but can he justify all the hype about Arizona? I don't see it that way. Furthermore, if it wasn't for a great hustle play by Tyrann Mathieu to save a sure TD by Cook, and a fluky pick six by Dan Williams, this game would've been much different.

What I do like about the Cards offense is the trio of studs at the wide receiver position. We all know about Larry Fitzgerald, but Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts made a statement in Week 1. This week, they'll be drooling to line up against rookie Darius Slay, who had a rough start to his NFL career. Ponder went 4-6 for 75 yards against the kid, and he got benched. Schwartz said he will continue to start, but this will be one advantage for Arizona to keep an eye on.

The problem I still have is the pairing of an immobile QB and a decrepit offensive line. The entire OL graded out negatively, both in pass protection and run blocking. Levi Brown gave up five pressures at left tackle, and Eric Winston gave up five at right tackle. Is it any wonder that the ground game struggled?

Ok, the Rams front is one of the best, but the Lions are equally dominant up front. Suh avoided a suspension, so he'll be a disruptive force inside with Nick Fairley. The rotation of Willie Young, Jason Jones, Ziggy Ansah, and Israel Idonije is scary on the outside. Not only did this group make Ponder's life miserable, but they completely shut down AP after his one breakout play.

It also helps to have veterans Tulloch and Levy at the second level. Both guys are liabilities in space, but they won't have to worry about covering Rob Housler. He's doubtful with an ankle sprain.

Another reason why I don't fear this Arizona offense that much is the presence of Louis Delmas and Glover Quin at the safety position. When Delmas is healthy, this is a different defense. He cleans up a lot of the mess when things break down up front and he's a rangy defender in coverage.

When the Lions have the ball

Stafford gets a ton of crap from critics. Some of it is warranted (like his record against playoff teams), but for the most part he's a prolific passer with scary weapons at his disposal.  He kicked off the year with a bang, totaling over 350 yards in the air, two touchdowns, and an interception that wasn't his fault. He was also robbed of another TD due to the ridiculous "possession" rule. Against pressure he was 6-11 for 70 yards.

Yet, the best news just might be the performance of the offensive line. They have three new starters and they looked like a cohesive unit. If they can continue this play it's going to be hard to stop this offense. It helps that Daryl Washington is not gonna be in the lineup for Arizona, too. They still have Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell to contend with though. With Dan Williams gobbling up space in the middle, this will be a good test for the O-line.

But the thing that makes this offense truly dynamic is the addition of Reggie Bush. I've been critical of him in the past, but he's a perfect fit for this scheme. Megatron always commands ridiculous attention on the outside, and this is going to open up the field for Bush. We saw immediate results in Week 1 as Bush put up 101 yards receiving and 90 yards rushing. Combined with Joique Bell, they had 51 yards after contact, too.

There's no doubt that Todd Bowles is losing sleep trying to figure out how to counter these guys.  Burleson and Pettigrew are both disappointing players, but they also have the ability to win favorable matchups. They'll see a lot of that this season if everyone stays healthy.

The Cardinals only sure thing in the secondary is Patrick Peterson. He's already one of the best, so he should be going up against CJ on the outside. After that, it's a bit of a crapshoot. Jerraud Powers and Antoine Cason need big games.

Bottom Line

A lot of people are high on the Cardinals coming out of the preseason. I'm not one of those people. Do I like their defense? Yes. But I'm still not convinced it's going to be as good as it was under Ray Horton. I also like it much better with Daryl Washington in the lineup. I think they'll give Detroit some problems, but Reggie Bush is exactly what this offense was missing when Jahvid Best had to retire due to concussions.

On the flip side, there's no doubt that Palmer is an upgrade at QB, but he's immobile and behind a very suspect offensive line. Not a good combination when he's about to face a dominant defensive front for the second game in a row. I also like this Detroit secondary much better with a healthy Louis Delmas and free agent addition Glover Quin. The home crowd will certainly help the Cards, but none of them can pass protect. Give me the Lions.