3TFO: Lions @ Cardinals, Week 15
There’s no nice way to put it. The Arizona Cardinals are in the middle of one of the worst displays of quarterbacking in recent history as starters John Skelton and Ryan Lindley have simply been overmatched. This week they host the Detroit Lions, who also come in with a 4-9 record, though their season has been a little different. While the Cardinals came storming out at 4-0 before getting overmatched the last nine games, the Lions have played competitive football but an 0-5 record against divisional opponents has done them in.
Both teams have serious concerns to address moving forward as Arizona must find a competent quarterback while Detroit must figure out why their supposedly talented team has underachieved this season.
Regardless of record, there are a number of intriguing matchups in this one. Let’s take a look.
Calvin Johnson vs. Larry Fitzgerald
You have to feel for Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whose lack of production is directly related to the team’s poor quarterback play. He’s still a more than capable receiver, but it’s been a difficult task getting the ball into his hands in recent weeks. Over the last four games, he has only six receptions on 36 targets with only 67 yards to show for his efforts. He can take some blame as he does have three drops in that stretch after dropping only three last season. Keep an eye on his battles with rookie cornerback Jonte Green, who has given up 71 percent completions his way, but his 0.77 Yards/Cover Snap ranks 12th out of 117 qualifiers at cornerback.
On the other side, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is having a monster season despite scoring only five touchdowns. He’s had six straight games with at least 100 yards and he’s sixth in the league in Yards/ Route Run at 2.48. His matchups with cornerback Patrick Peterson will be one of the best in the game as Peterson continues to emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the league in his second season. He’s currently 13th out of the top 72 cornerbacks with 0.97 Yards/Cover Snap and opposing quarterbacks have a QB Rating of 54.2 when throwing his way. It should be a great battle between two of the best athletes at their respective positions.
Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley vs. Cardinals Interior Offensive Line
The Lions have been stout up the middle on defense as Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have emerged as one of the best defensive tackle pairs in the league. That was the goal when they were drafted in the first round in the 2010 and 2011 drafts. While Suh came right out of the gates as an impact player, Fairley had to wait a year to become a full-time player. Fairley is currently our No. 4 defensive tackle at +19.2 while Suh is right behind him at +17.8. Fairley is second in Pass Rush Productivity at 9.4 and Suh ranks fourth at 8.1. Despite the big years, both players have weaknesses as Fairley has the most penalties of any defensive tackle with 11 and Suh has had his usual inconsistent play against the run grading at -3.1. The Lions look to be set up the middle for years to come.
Detroit’s duo will square off against guard Adam Snyder, who ranks 46th out of 51 qualifiers in Pass Blocking Efficiency at 95.4 while the other guard position will be manned by Daryn Colledge, who has fared much better. Colledge is ranked 12th in PBE at 97.5. At center, the top two options, Rich Ohrnberger and Lyle Sendlein, are on injured reserve so undrafted free agent Scott Wedige will be making his first career start. He played 10 snaps last week.
Daryl Washington vs. Lions Interior Offensive Line
It’s rare to find an inside linebacker closing in on double-digit sacks, but that’s exactly what we have in Daryl Washington. He has nine sacks to go along with three hits and nine hurries on his 132 pass rushes this season. He’s benefitted from a scheme that loves to send him on blitzes as he’s done so on 29 percent of his passing snaps, fourth highest in the league. When you add it all up, he’s fourth in the league in PRP among inside linebackers at 14.6.
Detroit’s interior line will have to keep a close eye on Washington and responsibility will fall on center Dominic Raiola. He’s grading at +5.6 as a pass blocker and his 98.5 PBE ranks sixth among centers. He’ll be in charge of the line calls and making sure that Washington is kept in check. Guards Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman will have to be on point as well and they rank seventh (97.7) and 45th (95.5) respectively in PBE among guards.
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