The Detroit Lions travel to the desert this week as they head to Glendale to take on the Arizona Cardinals. Something will have to give as the Lions are 1-4 on the road this year while the Cardinals are 1-5 at home. Detroit is on a two game losing streak while the Cardinals are coming off a 20-17 win over the Green Bay Packers after losing three straight.
Both teams have struggled mightily under first-year head coaches. The Lions (4-8) haven’t lived up to expectations under Matt Patricia after going 9-7 in consecutive seasons and making the playoffs in 2016 under Jim Caldwell. The Cardinals (3-9) went 8-8 last year but were expected to struggle under Steve Wilks after the retirement of Bruce Arians and drafting quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Rosen, who has played in 10 games this year and started nine, has not been too impressive in his rookie campaign. After allowing Sam Bradford to start the first three games of the year, the Cardinals turned to the first-year pro from UCLA. On the year, Rosen has thrown for 1,670 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
His QB counterpart, Matthew Stafford, has not had one of his best seasons in his decade long career in the Motor City. Through 12 games, he has passed for 3,086 yards, 18 TDs and 11 interceptions.
Both teams have struggled this season on the offensive side of the ball this year as Detroit is averaging 21.2 points per game (which ranks 23rd in the NFL) while Arizona is dead last in the league in scoring with 14.6 PPG. The offenses may continue to be stagnant as both teams will be without a key playmaker on that side of the ball.
Detroit will be without its leading rusher, Kerryon Johnson, for the third straight game due to a knee injury. On the year, the rookie from Auburn has rushed for 641 yards and three TDs. They will rely on LeGarrette Blount, who has rushed for 149 yards and two TDs in his absence, and Theo Riddick.
Arizona will be missing their top wide receiver in Christian Kirk. The rookie from Texas A&M broke his foot in Sunday’s win against the Packers and was placed on injured reserve. He was leading the team with 590 receiving yards and had three touchdowns on the year.
Rosen will have to rely on some veteran playmakers with Kirk and left tackle D.J. Humphries being out. Running back David Johnson is leading team in rushing with 761 yards and six TDs. He is also a threat out of the backfield as he has 328 receiving yards with two touchdowns.
With Kirk out, the Cardinals top receiver is a familiar name. Larry Fitzgerald, in his 15th year, has not been as productive as he once was in his prime, but he is still having a solid season. He has 508 yards (second on the team) and five TDs.
As for the defensive side of the ball, both teams have not been good. The Lions are giving up 26.3 points per game, which ranks 26th in the NFL, while the Cardinals are allowing 25.8 points per contest, which ranks 23rd in the league.
Detroit and Arizona have both been especially bad against the run. The Lions are allowing 119.8 yards per game on the ground while the Cardinals are giving up 140.9 rushing yards per game to opposing teams.
On the bright side for the Lions, they have been a lot better in the last six games. Since acquiring Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the New York Giants for a 5th round pick in October, they have been a whole different team on the defensive side of the ball. In his six games with Detroit, Harrison has 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He has also been a leader in the locker room and a positive influence to the youngsters on the Lions defensive line.
Now onto the prediction. This is a game the Lions should win. The Cardinals have not been a good team in 2018, but again, neither has Detroit. But they do have the advantage at the quarterback position with an experienced vet in Stafford compared to a raw rookie in Rosen. This does not always guarantee success, though, as Rosen did outduel Aaron Rodgers last week and led his team to victory.
Both teams have weak defenses but neither team has a very potent offense. I think this one should be a low scoring affair and will be close throughout. But in the end, the experience of Stafford will lead the Lions to a victory as Rosen struggles and throws an interception late. Detroit escapes the desert with a win and improves to 5-8 while Arizona falls to 3-10.
Detroit 24, Arizona 20.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and TeamRankings.com.