The Arizona Cardinals have lost 12 of their last 13 games. If they're going to pick up a win this Sunday, it's not going to be as easy as some may have thought it would be before the season started.
It looks like the Detroit Lions are coming to play this year.
The Cardinals are going to get a closer look at a suddenly-revitalized Lions team on Sunday in Arizona, and if they have any hope of competing in perhaps the toughest division in football, they're going to need to find a way to win this game. The same goes for Detroit if they want to prove that last season was a fluke and that Jim Schwartz was justified in keeping his job.
Which team will come out ahead in Week 2?
Meet the Cardinals
If Detroit is a surprise team to begin this season, then it was Arizona that was the big surprise last season. However, the Lions will want to have a better finish.
The Cardinals started the season 4-0 before losing 11 of their last 12 games. They added Carson Palmer, Rashard Mendenhall, and Karlos Dansby in the offseason, but top pick Jonathan Cooper broke his leg in the preseason. Playing against the Rams in Week 1, Arizona held a 24-13 lead going into the fourth quarter but just like last season, they collapsed.
The good news is that the offense immediately looks happier with Palmer at the helm. They 24 points scored were the second most that the Cardinals have put up since their 4-0 start. The most?
A 38-10 win over the Lions in Week 15 of last season.
Meet the Lions
If Detroit wants revenge for their embarrassing loss to Arizona last season, they do seem poised to get it.
Matthew Stafford threw for 357 yards, Reggie Bush had 191 total yards, and Joique Bell scored twice in the Lions 34-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. Not only that, but three sacks, three interceptions, and a fumble recovery may prove that the defense is going to step up this season as well.
Or maybe it was just because they were playing Christian Ponder.
The Lions lost nine games by eight points or less last season, including two in overtime. They probably were not as bad as their 4-12 record and could be a serious wild card contender this season. First, they'll need to win in Arizona and prove that last season's loss was nothing more than a fluke.
Local Takes: Arizona
Cardinals SBNation blog Revenge of the Birds wrote this week about Bruce Arians' offense and how Palmer is expected to take hits when going downfield so often:
As I've said before, Bruce Arians digs the long ball. He wants the "chunk" plays that cover 20 or more yards. He wants to use a deep pass at least six plays a game and if the chamber still has bullets, than the barrel probably should be upturned toward the shooter's head in resignation. It's a major part of his modis operandi.
Local Takes: Detroit
Ndamukong Suh was fined a record $100,000 for a low hit on Vikings center John Sullivan in Week 1. Sean Yuille from Pride of Detroit broke down some more specifics of the fine, the largest ever for something that happened on the field and also noted the good and the bad from Detroit's blocking ability against the Vikings:
Two notes from Pro Football Focus' review of the Lions' season-opener via Dave Birkett: 1) Bush and Joique Bell didn't give up a single quarterback pressure on 14 pass-blocking attempts. 2) Corey Hilliard gave up 5 hurries on Sunday; the rest of the offensive line combined to allow 2 quarterback hits and 3 hurries.
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This has to be one of the toughest games of the week to call, and that's probably why this is an even line in Vegas.
The Cardinals did not look as bad as some may have expected without the presence of Cooper and suspended linebacker Daryl Washington. In fact, they looked downright good at times with the trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, and Michael Floyd catching passes from Palmer. The running game is still not good, but the defense has talent with the likes of Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, and impressive rookie Tyrann Mathieu. Arizona should have beaten the Rams, but fell apart in the fourth quarter. The last time they played Detroit, it was a no-contest victory.
But the Lions are a new team as well.
Bush's 191 yards from scrimmage was one of the best games of his career and a reminder of what made him a (once upon a time) Heisman winner for USC. With Calvin Johnson and Stafford, the offense should still be explosive, even moreso with the presence at running back that they missed last season. On defense, Nick Fairley had a great game with 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery, while rookie Ezekiel Ansah added half-a-sack of his own.
Detroit looked better because they picked up a convincing win, but the Cardinals should get credit for playing well against a good Rams team on the road and nearly escaping with a victory. In a game so evenly matched, I have to go with the home team.
Cardinals 28, Lions 27
As said above, the line is even with an over/under of 48 on OddsShark.com.
The Cardinals head back on the road, taking on the Saints in New Orleans. It's not an easy start to the season for Arizona.
The Lions are also on the road, playing the Redskins at FedEx Field in Washington.