Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks down Sunday’s recreation between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.:
Know the foe
Arizona Cardinals (3-9)
Coach: Steve Wilks (three-9 general, 3-9 with Cardinals)
Key players: QB Josh Rosen, RB David Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald, DE Chandler Jones, CB Patrick Peterson
Last recreation: Beat the Green Bay Packers, 20-17
Final assembly: 2017 season: Lions won, 35-23.
The buzz: The Lions have lost to two of the NFL’s worst teams already in the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets, and they another play bottom-feeder this week. Arizona has struggled in Wilks’ first season as coach, though to be fair, expectations were low coming into the season. Sam Bradford was benched in September and released in November, and the Cardinals have played rookie first-round pick Rosen at quarterback much of the year. They fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy at midseason, handed the reins over to Byron Leftwich, and have done a good job reincorporating Johnson, one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL, into the offense the last few weeks. The Cardinals’ offensive line is in shambles, with three rookies starting, and there aren’t many weapons on the outside beyond the likely future Hall-of-Famer Fitzgerald.
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While Arizona has the lowest-scoring offense in the NFL (14.6 points per game), the Cardinals do have some playmakers on defense. Jones is third in the NFL with 12 sacks, Peterson is a perennial Pro Bowler at cornerback, and Wilks has brought an aggressive mindset with him from his time with the Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals won at Lambeau Field last week to snap a three-game losing skid, but the only other team they’ve beat this year is the 49ers (twice) and they have the second worst net point differential (minus-135 points) in the NFL.
The Lions will win if … they score 21 points or more. Neither one of these teams has much to offer offensively right now, but the Cardinals are especially inept in scoring. Arizona has topped 20 points just twice since Rosen took over as starting quarterback in Week 4, and the Cardinals have typically played things safe with their offensive game plans. The Lions aren’t exactly the Greatest Show on Turf as they’ve averaged just 16.2 points while dropping five of their last six games. But they can afford to take a…