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Five things to watch: Lions vs. Cardinals

The regular season finally kicks off for the Detroit Lions later today as they host the Arizona Cardinals.

The Lions are playing their first home game to start the season since 2014, and just their fourth in the past 11 seasons.

Arizona is good in all three phases, making them a tough Week 1 opponent. This game should tell the Lions a lot about what kind of team they have to start the 2017 season.

Here are five things to watch out for:



We only got to see six full quarters of a healthy Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick playing together in Detroit's backfield last year. They were an impressive six quarters, however. The Lions are confident a healthy Abdullah can fix some of their problems in the run game. We know what kind of weapon Riddick can be out of the backfield.

There's also the potential that we see both of them on the field at the same time at points this season. The stress that could put on a defense could be interesting to watch.

The Lions rushed for 100 yards as a team in both the games Abdullah and Riddick played together in last year. After Abdullah was injured in Week 2, that happened just one other time all year.

Can these two pick up where they left off early last year?


Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said earlier in the week that we should expect Ansah to be a little rusty after missing all of training camp and the preseason with a knee injury.

He returned to practice just this week, and was a limited participant. It might take a little time for Ansah to get caught back up to the speed of the game.

How much will he play today? How effective will he be?

Austin didn't seem too worried about his Pro Bowl defensive end. We'll see if he was right not to be concerned.   


Jarrad Davis gets his first NFL start today, and he'll be right in the middle of the action calling the defense as Austin's MIKE linebacker. The Lions drafted Davis in the first round back in May because they needed to get faster and more athletic at the linebacker spot, which they hope will lead to more game-breaking plays on that side of the ball. 

The preseason was a good learning experience for Davis, and he'll keep getting better, but now the scheming has begun, and it's a pretty safe bet that the Cardinals will challenge the rookie linebacker early on to test the waters.


Can Detroit's defense get to Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and make him uncomfortable? If they can't, it might be a long day for Austin's defense.

The Cardinals have been very careful with the way they've used Palmer this entire offseason and training camp, and Arians said his 37-year old quarterback is looking like his younger self.

"Oh gosh, it looks like he's 25 maybe 30," Arian said. "It's as good as I've even seen it since he's been here."

If that's truly the case, then the Lions need to get after him and make him uncomfortable, something they weren't able to do consistently enough last season. Detroit had just 26 sacks last season, and opposing quarterbacks completed more than 70 percent of their passes with a passer rating north of 100.0.

There's a lot of question marks surrounding Detroit's pass rush, and later today we should start to get some answers.


Lions general manager Bob Quinn put a lot of resources into Detroit's offensive line this offseason. We've been talking about how much better it could be for months. Today, we get to see it together in a game that counts for the first time.

Can they keep a Cardinals defense that led the NFL in sacks last year off quarterback Matthew Stafford? Can they open holes for Abdullah and Co.?

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