Five things to watch as Lions face Cardinals in Arizona

Cardinals coming off win at Green Bay

ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions have lost five of their last six and are out of the playoff picture. They will face the Cardinals, who are coming off a big 20-17 win at Green Bay, at Arizona at 4:20 p.m. on Sunday.

So that’s the Lions (4-8) against the Cardinals (3-9). Try not to get too excited.

Give credit to the Lions who have marched on this week just like any other week this season trying to put themselves in the best position for a win.

Arizona has been dealing with several injuries including wide receiver Christian Kirk and along the offensive line. It makes preparation more difficult for the Lions.

“You have to try to plan for things that you’ve certainly seen first and foremost off the tape and through their history of whatever games they played and situations they played that may be similar to the situations that they have now,’’ Detroit coach Matt Patricia said. “But there definitely are elements that can come up that you’re not going to have seen or have ready from a game-plan standpoint. You’re going to have to be able to adjust once you get into the game.’’

Here are five things to watch:

1. Take advantage of Arizona’s depleted offensive line. Offensive tackle DJ Humphries was just placed on injured reserve. The Cardinals now have none of their projected offensive line starters from training camp. “They’ve been able to block it up, use some extra guys in protection, been able to run the ball. Obviously, (they) just have a great back in David Johnson, have a great player in Larry Fitzgerald. The quarterback’s mobile, so he kind of can buy some time there, also. And I think they’re just using their strengths to their advantage in that situation to make up for whatever, maybe, deficiencies they have,’’ Patricia said.

2. Don’t take the Cards lightly. They’ve won seven of the last eight meetings with the Lions and have won eight straight against Detroit in Arizona. Quarterback Josh Rosen may be a rookie (the 10th overall pick) but he’s gaining experience each week. His numbers are less than gaudy with a 54.2 completion percentage and more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10), but he was able to keep the chains moving at Lambeau Field.

3. Grab an early lead while the grabbing is good. The Cardinals have been outscored 181-92 in the first halves of their first 12 games. “We always want to start fast, you know? Especially on the road. They’re a good football team,’’ Matthew Stafford said. “Obviously, got a really good win against Green Bay at Green Bay, which is tough to do. A bunch of talented guys, a bunch of early-round draft picks, high-price, free agent type guys on that team have been good for a long time. So, we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

4. Set the pace in tune with Stafford’s abilities. The quarterback has usually been better running a two-minute drill, so step it up a bit. The Lions’ offensive line should be able to give Stafford time although the Cardinals do have a pass rush that ranks fourth in the NFL.

5. Running back Kerryon Johnson will miss his third straight game but the Lions have to stay with the run game. LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner each has his strengths so make the best of them. Although calling a draw on a third-and-19 perhaps is not the right time to stay on the ground.

PREDICTION: Cardinals 24, Lions 17

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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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