Five things to watch from the Detroit Lions as they face Cardinals in opener

All eyes will be on Detroit’s defensive line

Finally, the regular NFL season is upon us.

The Detroit Lions are as prepared as they can be. They’ll take on the Arizona Cardinals at 1 p.m. on Sunday at the newly renovated Ford Field.

What will we see on the enlarged video screens?

Tough to tell.

Five things to watch :

1. Ziggy Ansah says he’s healthy and ready to go. Fine. What about the rest of the defensive line? Remember Khyri Thornton and Armonty Bryant are suspended. The tackles, with starters A’Shawn Robinson and Haloti Ngata, should be OK. Defensive end Cornelius Washington is a little tired of hearing about the questions on the ends. They can provide an answer by playing well and getting to Palmer early and often. Look for Anthony Zettel and Jeremiah Valoaga to rotate in at the ends. If the defensive line can persevere, the Lions have a better chance of winning.

2. Rookie middle linebacker Jarrad Davis has a lot on his shoulders. The first-round pick would not be starting unless defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had faith in him. He’s football smart, hard-working and talented, but he is also a rookie. It’s not like he’ll be alone he’ll be supported by Tahir Whitehead in the nickel package and veteran Paul Worrilow in the three linebacker sets.

3. Ameer Abdullah is healthy and so ready to go after missing the last 14 games last season. He and Theo Riddick must get off to a good start. This run game, with both of them healthy, should be similar to what we saw in the opener a year ago when they combined for 228 yards of offense. They’ll likely get some help from Zach Zenner, maybe in goal-line situations.

4. Of course, Matthew Stafford’s play will be the biggest factor this season. Everyone expects the best from him. He doesn’t like to think about the last time the Lions played the Cards when he was benched after throwing three interceptions. He’s a much different quarterback now.

5. Not only do the Cardinals have a stellar passing game led by quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Running back David Johnson can cause plenty of damage running the ball and catching it. He will be a good test for the secondary which is expected to feature the same starters as last year — Darius Slay, Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson and Nevin Lawson.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Cardinals 24. It’s a tough matchup, but homefield will have an effect in the opener. Everyone is healthy (except for punter Sam Martin) so the Lions must take advantage.

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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