The Detroit Lions are the startling leaders of the NFC North, but they face the NFL's biggest surprise on Sunday when they take on the team with the league's best record in the Arizona Cardinals.
For as well as the Lions' season has gone, the offense continues to puzzle. Despite the many offensive stars on the roster such as Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate and Reggie Bush, Detroit's offense ranks 24th in points through 10 weeks. However, the defense has picked up the slack, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is making a strong case for a big second contract as he approaches free agency. The Lions have won four straight games, but have needed fourth-quarter comebacks in each of the last three to secure the win.
Perhaps no team has played better this season than the Cardinals. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles continues to fluster opposing offenses with his aggressive scheme, and the team's offense has improved over the past three weeks. However, the team's momentum may be halted if quarterback Drew Stanton stumbles while replacing injured starter Carson Palmer. Head coach Bruce Arians called the season a "bumpy-ass road," though he believes Arizona can continue to thrive.
Stafford's down year is rooted in his penchant for turnovers and struggles to make big plays. In 10 games, the quarterback has thrown just 13 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. Stafford has also fumbled away three other possessions. Detroit's ground game has also faltered. Bush has been overtaken by Joique Bell, who averages just 3.3 yards per attempt and has only 357 rushing yards on the year. Because of injury, Johnson has only recorded 29 catches for 461 yards, though free agent addition Golden Tate has performed well in his absence with 909 yards on 66 receptions.
Arizona's defense has received great play from a bunch of unknown youngsters and forgotten veterans. Safeties Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson have combined for 108 tackles while the 34-year-old linebacker Larry Foote has provided 48 of his own and four tackles for loss. Calais Campbell, one of the few healthy stars in the front seven, leads the team with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. Cornerback Patrick Peterson hasn't had his best year, but he recorded his first pick six of the season last week after tipping an interception to himself.
The Lions enter Sunday's game with a record of 7-2. The Cardinals come in at 8-1.
How to watch
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale
When: 4.25 p.m. ET
Announcers: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale
Online streaming: Verizon NFL Mobile
The Cardinals are 1-point favorites, according to OddsShark, with an over/under of 41 points.
For more on the Lions, check out Pride of Detroit.
For additional coverage of the Cardinals, head on over to Revenge of the Birds.