LIONS INSIDER

Twentyman: It's for nothing but pride, but it should be enough

Posted Dec 16, 2012

A playoff spot isn’t on the line this afternoon between two 4-9 teams, but it’s an important game for the Lions because of what a loss would mean.

The Lions aren’t playing for anything but pride Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, but that should be enough.

A playoff spot isn’t on the line this afternoon between two 4-9 teams, but it’s an important game for the Lions because of what a loss would mean.

The Cardinals have lost nine-straight games and it’s hard to find a team playing worse football in the league right now. A loss today would be a new low in a season filled with quite a few.

The Cardinals are not a good team right now – especially on offense – and are coming off a 58-0 loss to Seattle last week.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said this week that, "Nobody feels sorry for anybody in the NFL."

The Lions certainly don’t feel bad for the Cardinals after close losses in their last four games to the Packers (twice), Texans and Colts.

It’s long overdue for the Lions to step out of their funk and put their foot on the gas vs. an inferior opponent. It’s time for the defense to impose their will on an offense that ranks near the bottom of the league in every major statistical category on offense.

It’s time to win a football game.

HISTORY
The series dates back to 1930 before both franchises moved to their current locations. Since moving to Detroit, the Lions own a 29-22-3 record over a Cardinals franchise that’s been headquartered in Chicago, St. Louis and finally Arizona in 1994.

The Cardinals have won eight of the last 11 meetings, though, including a 31-24 victory in the last meeting in 2009.

2012 REGULAR SEASON RANKINGS (Rank)

LionsCardinals
Record 4-9 4-9
Points per game 24.6 (12) 14.3 (32)
Total yards per game 413.8 (2) 269.5 (32)
Rushing yards 106.0 (21) 78.5 (32)
Passing yards 307.8 (1) 190.9 (28)
Points allowed 26.3 (25) 22.5 (18)
Total yards allowed 348.4 (13) 337.6 (12)
Rushing yards allowed 121.0 (20) 140.5 (30)
Passing yards allowed 227.4 (13) 197.1 (5)
Turnover ratio -6 (22t) 0 (14t)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lions

Matthew Stafford, QB:

The Cardinals’ defense has held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 71.9, the second-best mark in the NFL behind the Bears (67.9). They also have 19 interceptions on the season (third most) and their secondary is by far the strength of the team.

Stafford is looking to become only the second quarterback in NFL history (Drew Brees) to throw for 5,000 yards twice. This should be one of the better matchups in the game.

Sammie Hill, DT:

With Corey Williams on IR and Nick Fairley doubtful to play, expect Hill to see some more reps today. Hill is the run-stopper of that defensive tackle group and isn’t thought of so much as a pass rusher, like Fairley or Williams.

It’ll be interesting to see how he and Ndamukong Suh play off each other and if the Lions will be as effective as they’ve been up the middle the last month.

Tony Scheffler/Will Heller, TEs:

The Lions missed Brandon Pettigrew last week after he left the Packers game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Pettigrew is doubtful to play today, which means most of the load will fall on Scheffler and Heller.

Both Scheffler and Heller said this week that their roles and route concepts won’t change because Pettigrew is out.

Stafford has relied on Pettigrew a lot as a security blanket over the middle of the field the past four years, so it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals attack the Lions without their second-leading receiver on the field.

Cardinals

Ryan Lindley, QB:

Lindley is essentially the better of two bad options for the Cardinals at quarterback right now. The sixth-round rookie out of San Diego State will get the start over John Skelton today.

Lindley has completed less than 50 percent of his passes on the year and has yet to throw a touchdown in 120 attempts. He does have five interceptions, though.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR:

To say Fitzgerald is frustrated with the current state of the Cardinals’ passing game would probably an understatement.

He and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson are the two best talents at the position in the game today and it has to be killing Fitzgerald to not have a quarterback who can get him the ball.

Fitzgerald has just six catches over the team’s last four games and only 652 yards total on the season.

Johnson has Stafford, and is on pace to break the single-season receiving yards record.

Daryl Washington, LB:

Washington has 10 sacks over his last 14 games and is one of just two players (Clay Matthews being the other) with 14-plus sacks, three-plus interceptions and two-plus forced fumbles since 2011.

He also has seven sacks over his last seven home games and leads the team with 108 tackles.

5 KEYS FOR LIONS

BE GOOD ON THIRD DOWN

The Cardinals are converting only 24.2 percent of the time on third down during their current nine-game losing streak. In the last two games, it's been a paltry 13.7 percent.

The Lions need to continue to take advantage of the Cardinals’ woes on offense and get off the field on defense so the offense can take their shots.

GET BACK TO RUSHING THE PASSER

The Lions have been a bit underwhelming rushing the passer this season. They’ve been solid getting a push up the middle from their defensive tackles, but too many times the defensive ends haven’t been able to get home or haven’t contained plays.

Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said this week his offensive line was in a state of “flux” because of all the injuries the unit has suffered. They’ve already placed three linemen on IR.

Cliff Avril has 9.5 sacks through 13 games, which is a good number, but only two other ends (Kyle Vanden Bosch and Lawrence Jackson) have recorded sacks on the season with a combined 5.5.

GET A LEAD

The Cardinals haven’t scored a touchdown in their last two games and haven’t thrown for a touchdown in their last four games.

The easiest way to a victory today for the Lions is to get an early lead and make the Cardinals play catch-up with their passing game. That’s the last thing Whisenhunt and the Cardinals want to have happen

DON’T GIVE UP A CHEAP ONE

The Lions’ cover units have been some of the best in the NFL since giving up four touchdowns in a two-week span Weeks 3 and 4.

The longest punt return they’ve given up since then is just 13 yards.

They’ll be facing the NFC representative in the Pro Bowl last year in returner Patrick Peterson, who had four return touchdowns last season.

Peterson has been held without a touchdown all season and is only averaging 8.3 yards per punt return. He’s about due. Stefan Logan is averaging 9.7 for comparison’s sack.

The Cardinals are averaging only 14.3 points per game – the Lions can’t give them any cheap points.

JOHNSON VS. PETERSON

The Cardinals are expected to put Patrick Peterson on receiver Calvin Johnson for most of the game, but he will get help from time-to-time, according to Cardinals coaches.

It should be one of the better matchups of the year for Johnson.

Peterson (6-1, 219) is a physical corner who can run with him.

The key for the Lions will be to a win a couple of the other matchups.