With their first home win under their belt, the Detroit Lions must hit the road for the desert, and a match up with the Arizona Cardinals. Neither University of Phoenix Stadium nor the Cardinals have been kind hosts to the Lions lately, as the team has gone 3-0 against Detroit at home since 2006, with the most dominating win being last December's 38-10 whitewash.
The Lions should be motivated for revenge this time around, as they gave up during their last visit to Arizona. Once again, though, this challenge won't be easy. The Cardinals looked much improved during their close loss to the St. Louis Rams and have many offensive and defensive weapons, much like Detroit. Knowing that, the victor of this battle might come down to mindset by Sunday night.
Cardinals' Offensive Difference Maker: Carson Palmer. Of course Larry Fitzgerald's superior talent helps out, but after not having a quarterback since Kurt Warner, the Cardinals finally gained one over the offseason. In his first game, Palmer threw for a respectable 327 yards on 26/40 passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Most importantly, he found Fitzgerald for both scores. He was sacked four times for 23 yards, however, which could get him in trouble against Detroit's relentless defensive line. It's worth noting that Palmer has only thrown five touchdowns to four interceptions in his career facing the Lions, while getting sacked seven times. Palmer's play will be key in determining how well the Cardinals' offense moves on Sunday. Remember, the Lions did lose to Ryan Lindley last season.
Cardinals' Defensive Difference Maker: Jasper Brinkley. It was a fantastic opener for Brinkley, who collected eight tackles against St. Louis while registering one pass defended, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. Detroit will have to account for the man that collected 15 tackles against them last season, along with his running mate Karlos Dansby. The Cardinals can get after quarterbacks from the linebacker position. With Brinkely roaming around, the Lions' new offensive line, which didn't give up a sack last week, will certainly be tested and have to watch for trouble from more spots than merely the defensive line.
Cardinals' Major Problem: Lacking a winning mentality. By hiring Bruce Arians as head coach, the Cardinals are hoping to fix this issue, considering Arians has plenty of experience with winning. After week one, though, it's clear the process is still playing out. Despite doing plenty of good things on the road against the Rams, though, Arizona still collapsed in the fourth quarter, blowing a 24-13 lead and losing. Will the Cardinals be able to get the job done against a motivated team at home? Moreover, will they be able to finish the job this time around if they get a lead? The Lions came from behind last week, so Arizona will need a strong mental effort to pull out a victory, especially if the game is close. This shouldn't be the same Lions team which rolled over and played dead against them last December.
Cardinals Major Strength: Play makers. Besides the players already mentioned, Arizona has cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, wide receiver Michael Floyd and running back Rashard Mendenhall, all of whom made an impact in game one. Knowing this, it's obvious there are plenty of pieces in place that can make big plays. Arizona will be able to have elite talent on the field at plenty of spots, but can they put everything together and get a win?
Biggest Intangible: Detroit's first road game. The Lions have made road losing a habit over their recent history, especially last season, losers of six out of eight away from home. Can the Lions get off to a good start and plant some early seeds of doubt in the Cardinals? Conversely, how will the Lions respond if Arizona grabs a quick lead? Last week, Arizona fell apart on the road, so it will be interesting to see how Detroit responds to their first road test.
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