Cardinals -1 @ Lions, 1 PM ET Sunday
The Cardinals come into this season off a disappointing 2016 campaign that saw the offense drop off significantly after an NFC Championship run in 2015. The offense suffered from a poor offensive line, an tired Carson Palmer arm, and John Brown missing time to sickle cell disease. The team was also forced to release Michael Floyd after a DUI arrest midseason. John Brown is now healthy and Palmer’s arm looks much stronger behind an offensive line that has made some improvements.
The Lions are coming off a 9-7 season and a playoff visit but lost in those numbers are the fact that they needed 8 comebacks in the 4th quarter for those 9 wins. They also had one of the worst defenses in the NFL:
- Lions allowed teams to complete 45.5 % of 3rd downs, 31st in the NFL
- Lions defense had just 26 sacks last season, also 31st in the NFL
- Lions allowed 72.7% of passes to be completed, by far the worst in the NFL. The next worst was the Cowboys who allowed 67.1% of passes.
When you look at their defensive numbers it’s clear to see why they needed to comeback in the 4th quarter in 8 of their 9 wins. More importantly the Lions had an 0-6 record when facing playoff teams, losing all of those games by 7+ points by a margin of 12.2 ppg. They also finished the season 0-5 ATS and lost 3 of those 4 games by double digits, giving up 161 yards to Thomas Rawles in a 26-6 playoff loss in Seattle. The Lions made some offseason moves in free agency and in the draft to patch up some defensive holes but nothing that will be game-changing, especially for Week 1.
By no means do the Cardinals have a strong offensive line (they are ranked 17th this season by Pro Football Focus and were 26th last season) but the Lions defense is a good matchup for the Cardinals. Bruce Arians has vowed to call more plays that allow Palmer to get rid of the ball quicker so he stays protected and this bodes well vs. the Lions. Larry Fitzgerald will be matched up vs DJ Hayden in the slot who has struggled the past few seasons and is 4 inches shorter than Fitzgerald. David Johnson should also have a lot of success versus a bad run defense that is now without linebacker DeAndre Levy after being released due to lingering knee issues.
This is a 1PM ET game which is tricky for the Cardinals traveling cross country and losing 3 hours. They haven’t had much success in this position recently as they lost last season to the Panthers 30-20 and the Bills 33-18 in this situation, but Week 1 allows them to prepare a little extra for the time difference and the Cardinals also went to Detroit in 2015 and won 42-17. Bruce Arians is 3-0 ATS vs. the Lions as the coach of the Cardinals and has expressed a lot of confidence for this offense heading into 2017.
Expect a big day for David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown on offense. The Cardinals defense is strong and gets Tyrann Mathieu back after missing 6 games last season.
Official play: Cardinals -1. 3 units (rated on a 1-5 unit scale).