The Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions enter Week 15 with identical 4-9 records. With both teams nearing the end of disappointing seasons, Sunday's match-up is highlighted by Calvin Johnson's attempt to close-in on Jerry Rice's single-season receiving record.
The contest is a meeting of two teams on the tail-end of disappointing performances in 2012. After opening the season a perfect 4-0, the Cardinals lost their last nine games and will be entering Sunday's contest off an embarrassing 58-0 loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks.
Detroit came into the year with high expectations after an impressive campaign in 2011 that produced the team's first playoff appearance in 12 years. After a tumultuous offseason, the team started 2012 with a victory against the St. Louis Rams before losing their next three games.
After winning three of their next four, the Lions fell off the wagon again by dropping their next five straight.
Meet the Cardinals
Arizona placed quarterback Kevin Kolb on injured reserve on Wednesday afternoon, officially ending his 2012 season. Kolb has not played since suffering a rib injury on Oct. 14 against the Buffalo Bills.
His back-up John Skelton committed four turnovers in Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
In regards to the rest of the team, questions regarding their allegiance to head coach Ken Whisenhunt has been raised. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett didn't wish to comment when the subject was breached. Other players gave luke-warm answers that weren't overly expressive.
Times are dark in the desert.
Meet the Lions
Currently in last place in the NFC North, the Lions will look to snap a five-game losing streak.
Despite the extended slide, Detroit has remained competitive in the contests. However, bad breaks (Thanksgiving against Houston) and costly errors (Matthew Stafford's fumble against the Packers) have cost the team dearly.
With playoff contention a non-factor, Calvin Johnson's ability to break Jerry Rice's single-season receiving record remains one of the few bright spots left in the 2012 season.
Local Takes: Cardinals
Tyler Nickel from Revenge of the Birds says the Cardinals are already looking ahead to 2013:
The point is that the Cardinals appear to be traveling down the trail of trying anything that works. If they can somehow find a diamond in the rough that doesn't require an offensive line to block for him, the team may be able to save a few jobs. They see that Beanie Wells has been rendered ineffective, LaRod Stephens-Howling is too small behind this 'talented' offensive line and William Powell just makes too many mental errors. With that, they are using these last three games as a tryout for Whitaker, Hoyer and other players to see if they can be added to the team in 2013.
Local Takes: Lions
Sean Yuille from Pride of Detroit says this about the prospects of Johnson breaking Rice's record:
With Rice's single-season record for yards receiving at 1,848, Johnson needs only 303 yards to pass him and move to the top of the list. Johnson currently has 1,546 yards receiving on the season, and he actually only needs 136 more yards to set a personal career high.
With three weeks left on the schedule, Johnson needs to average 101 yards receiving per game to break Rice's record. Considering how well Johnson has played in recent weeks, the record is definitely within reach barring an injury.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Revenge of the Birds and Pride of Detroit, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
2 players whose fan stock has increased exponentially from last year -- Levi Brown and Kevin Kolb. Amazing how perspective changes.— Revenge of the Birds (@revengeofbirds) December 10, 2012
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said he'd prefer to play Megatron one-on-one Sunday and says he's looking forward to the matchup.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) December 12, 2012
Whiz said Ryan Lindley will start at QB this week.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) December 12, 2012
Honest question: which team is a bigger disappointment? The Lions had big expectations after going to the playoffs last season. People thought they would not only make the playoffs, but notch multiple postseason wins. The Cardinals are a disappointment only because of the expectations they created by starting out 4-0. That was nine losses ago.
The pick: 20-9, Lions
The Lions are favored by 5.5 points, according to the opening line at OddsShark.com.