The good thing for Lions coach Dan Campbell is that he has experienced an unusual number of tough challenges in his first season.
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. At least that’s what they say.
Campbell is in for another tough battle on Sunday when the injury-depleted Lions (1-10-1) face the Arizona Cardinals (10-3) at Ford Field at 1 p.m.
The COVID uptick across the league has affected the Lions, but not enough to delay the game.
“Yeah, there is concern, but there is nothing we can do about it. I mean, we’re doing all we can do to prepare for a game. You guys know COVID and football don’t go together,’’ Campbell said. “So, as far as how everybody is dealing with it, we do the best we can with it and we’re trying to keep our guys as safe as possible, but also prepare. We’re trying to be as smart as we can about it.”
Here are five things to know about the matchup:
1. The Cardinals, who are atop the NFC West, have won all seven of their road games this season. “It’s very impressive. They can jump on you in a hurry and then when they do, it takes a lot of pressure off of what you do for them defensively and offensively. I mean, you can open up Pandora’s box because you feel like – and I know defensively, look (Cardinals Defensive Coordinator) Vance Joseph does a hell of a job and he’s got multiple looks, multiple personnels, multiple pressure looks, but it also helps when you know you feel like you can score at will and now, you can really just do whatever you want,’’ Campbell said. “That puts a lot of pressure on teams, and so they work hand in hand, they complement each other well over there, O, D and special teams. And so, you look at it as a challenge. It’s a challenge for most teams, but I think you’ve got to try to make them play your game a little bit if you can.”
2. The lengthy injury list has given others a chance to prove themselves. “That’s a silver lining in all of this and that’s kind of the bright spot is that you are finding out about a lot of these guys that have been backups or have been on the practice squad,’’ Campbell said. “Ultimately, you don’t always know until you throw them into the fire and then you find out about some guys who normally have not had that opportunity like we have. But, we have because of different circumstances and that is a positive. You find out, ‘Do you move forward with these guys? Do you keep them around or are we looking to upgrade? Are these guys we can count on?’ And so forth.”
3. The final four games are important to Campbell. “Look, I think you’re continuing to try to improve on what you do. Like, for example, I feel like our receivers are really coming on over the last three weeks, three to four weeks,’’ Campbell said. “Particularly, these last two weeks I feel like they’re doing some real good things. We’re getting a lot more crisp, a lot more detailed, those guys are making plays. And so, I’m encouraged. I feel like it’s not as cloudy as maybe it was before. You’re starting to see things a little better.’’
4. Campbell was asked this week how much he is paying attention to Michigan and Oregon due to their potential top draft talent. He snapped back, “Zero.” Get this straight, he remains focused on getting this team to improve. He was asked again a few days later. “Is the draft within the next day or so? Because I would be very interested,’’ Campbell said. “But right now, no, and I really don’t. That’s (Executive Vice President and General Manager) Brad (Holmes)’s department right now. I’m so focused on what we have here and getting prepared for Arizona to be honest with you.”
5. Injuries play a huge role like they have all season. Julian Okwara (ankle) and RB D’Andre Swift (shoulder) are out. In case you missed it TE T.J. Hockenson is out for the rest of the season after deciding to undergo hand surgery. Also, questionable to play are Alex Anzalone (ankle), Michael Brockers (knee), Will Holden (not an injury), Jonah Jackson (back), Josh Reynolds (thigh) and Jaylen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder).
PREDICTION: Cardinals 42, Lions 17