Will the nine-game losing streak end this Sunday? That's the big question surrounding the Arizona Cardinals as they prepare to host the Detroit Lions Sunday afternoon in Glendale. Let's take a look at this matchup between two of the most disappointing teams in the NFC this season:
After making the playoffs last season, the Lions have struggled in 2012 but are still a very dangerous unit. Detroit is paced by the top receiver in the NFL, Calvin Johnson. "Megatron" needs to average 101 yards over his last three games to break Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards in a season (1,848). He has a legitimate shot - he has produced at least 100 receiving yards in his last six games, one game short of the NFL record
Detroit, losers of five straight, has the top passing offense in the league, averaging 307 yards per game. Johnson should be matched up against Patrick Peterson, who ranks third in the NFL with six interceptions. It should be fascinating to watch.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is second in the NFL in passing yards (4006) with 17 touchdown passes. He has tossed 12 interceptions though. Stafford may be without his second favorite target though. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) has not practiced all week and is likely to miss Sunday's contest. Tony Scheffler would start in his place.
Defensively, the Red Birds have to deal with defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley , two disruptive forces that have played very well lately. They each have 5.5 sacks on the season and are fine run stuffers as well. Considering the issues the Cards have had with their offensive line all year, Arizona could be in for a long afternoon.
Ryan Lindley is back as the starting QB for the Cardinals. He was terrible in his first two NFL starts but the Cards are in evaluation mode now that their season has gone up in smoke. Brian Hoyer, acquired off waivers this week from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and John Skelton may see some action if Lindley falters again.
If the Cardinals are to snap their longest losing streak since 1944, they are going to find a way to get the ball in the hands of their best player, Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, it's still Fitzgerald despite the fact that he has caught just SIX passes in the last four games combined. Amazing. Early Doucet (concussion) has not practiced all week and will likely miss the game so rookie Michael Floyd will fill in.
One bright note is that the Lions have allowed opposing teams’ wide receivers to have more than 130 receiving yards against them in nine straight games, which should bode well for Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and company. That's if Arizona's injury depleted offensive line can protect Lindley long enough from the likes of Suh, Fairley and defensive end Cliff Avril, who leads Detroit with 9.5 sacks.
Since neither team is headed to the playoffs this season, the Calvin Johnson vs. Patrick Peterson matchup is one of the more interesting individual battles in the league this season. It's worth the price of admission just to see those two outstanding talents face each other.
Prediction: Both teams are looking to stop long losing streaks. It's hard to have any confidence in Lindley right now – he looks overwhelmed in his rookie season. Expect heavy pressure from Suh, Avril and Fairley and don't be surprised to see Lindley turn the ball over a few times. Megatron should still prosper in his matchup with Peterson and Stafford is hot right now. Arizona's losing streak reaches double digits in the desert. Detroit 27, Arizona 17.
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