If there has been matchup in any game this season that should give the Detroit Lions a clear-cut advantage, it's their defensive line against the Arizona Cardinals' offensive line.
The development of rookie Da'Shawn Hand, A'Shawn Robinson playing up to his potential at tackle in his third season and the midseason addition of Damon "Snacks" Harrison as an anchor in the middle next to Robinson has made the unit the strength of the team.
While the Lions have been building a unit in the trenches, the Cardinals' offensive line has crumbled piece by piece. Five linemen who have started games this year have gone on injured reserve and a sixth, right tackle Andre Smith, was released after starting the first eight games.
The Cardinals are left with three rookies starting Sunday's home game against the Lions. And of the five starters, only rookie center Mason Cole has been a starter in all 12 games. Veteran left guard Mike Iupati was the last starter to depart. He went on injured reserve this week after starting Sunday's 20-17 win at Green Bay.
"This is probably the most I've seen." Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks said this week when asked about the turnover in the offensive line.
While the matchup favors the Lions on paper, especially with rookie Josh Rosen starting at quarterback, it doesn't guarantee anything on the field. Green Bay had only two sacks last week, and the Cardinals were able to run for 182 yards. The running back duo of veteran David Johnson (69) and rookie Chase Edmonds (53) combined for 122 yards.
Veteran tackle Ricky Jean Francois spoke about how going against a rookie quarterback should be an advantage, but he added a note of caution.
"We go into the game, changing our looks up, just get on him – be aggressive with him – you'll start seeing that rookie side of him," he said.
"Don't get me wrong. There are reasons he got drafted with that pick (first round). We go out there and do what we aren't supposed to do – we end up getting 300 to 400 yards put on us by a rookie quarterback.
"As long as he's back there and has that offensive line, the running back (Johnson) and a guy like Larry Fitzgerald who's going to help him out, he should be good."
This is one week the Lions should be better. With the emphasis on should.
Series history: The Lions have a 32-28 series lead with five ties. The Lions won the last meeting, 35-23, in the opening game of last season.
2017 Game Rewind: On opening day at Ford Field the Lions scored the last 26 points to overcome a 17-9 deficit and win. The Lions scored four straight touchdowns – a TD pass to Theo Riddick near the end of the third quarter, two more to Kenny Golladay in the fourth and an interception return by Miles Killebrew to finish off the scoring spree.
Arizona travel woes: The Lions have lost eight straight road games to the Cardinals. The Lions' last road win was a 21-14 victory in 1993 in Sun Devil Stadium.
Cardinals QB, Rosen rising: Rosen has experienced the ups and downs that are part of a rookie quarterback's learning curve. One thing he has learned is that everything – even the mistakes -- feels better when you win.
Last week's 20-17 road win over the Green Bay Packers was the high point of the season. Rosen's stats were not great – a 42.3-percent completion rate on 11-of-26 passing, but he made a couple big plays with his arm and legs.
He had a 33-yard scramble in the third quarter. More important was a 32-yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald on a third-and-23 situation that set up the game-winning field goal.
Rosen could laugh about how the run ended with a fumble. The ball went out of bounds.
"I was so close to getting that credibility (as a runner)," Rosen told reporters covering the Cardinals this week. "Then it fell out of my arms – like the ball."
Meet this weeks opponents, the Arizona Cardinals.
Rosen is making his 10th straight start Sunday since taking over for Sam Bradford late in the Game 3 loss to the Bears. Rosen has a 3-6 won-loss record, with two wins over the 49ers and the one at Green Bay.
Rosen has gotten more comfortable under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, a former NFL quarterback, despite playing behind the decimated offensive line.
"It's incrementally getting better every week," Rosen said. "I think Byron is slowly putting more and more on my plate without even telling me -- just doing it naturally. I'm excited in the direction we're heading."
There's a lot left to digest on his plate. In his last three games Rosen's completed only 32 of 65 passes for 390 yards with four TDs and three interceptions. He has a 54.2-percent completion rate for the season.
Head coach Steve Wilks told reporters this week how play-calling can help Rosen get into a rhythm.
"We've got to take advantage of what I call, 'Get on track throws.'" Wilks said. "The easy ones. The hitches, the slants and just being accurate."
Prediction: Both teams should be looking at this as a game they should win. If the Lions take advantage of their matchup against the Cardinals' offensive line and don't turn the ball over, they should win. It won't be a thriller though. The Lions have their own problems on offense, and the Cardinals can rush the passer.
Lions 17, Cardinals 16.