Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Mark Chichester
Matchup: Arizona Cardinals offense vs. Detroit Lions defense
- RB David Johnson vs LB Jarrad Davis – In 2016, Johnson put together a spectacular campaign in which he ranked third among 61 running backs with a PFF overall grade of 87.8. One of the most elusive players in football, Johnson forced 71 missed tackles on 373 rushing and receiving attempts, the best mark in the league. He’ll be looking to get the better of rookie inside linebacker Jarrad Davis, who missed a tackle once every 6.6 attempts in his senior season in college.
- WR Larry Fitzgerald vs CB Quandre Diggs – In his 14th year, Fitzgerald is once again set to enter the season as the Cardinals’ top receiving threat. Last season, Fitzgerald ran 63.3 percent of his routes from the slot, and produced a catch rate (the percentage of receptions compared to targets) of 72.4 percent, good for eighth among slot receivers with at least 265 slot snaps. Covering Fitzgerald in the slot will be the job of third-year cornerback Quandre Diggs. Last year, Diggs ranked 94th of 110 cornerbacks with a PFF overall grade of 43.7, and allowed a catch rate of 91.3 percent on throws into his primary coverage, the highest rate ever recorded by PFF.
- T D.J. Humphries vs Edge Ezekiel Ansah – Following a disappointing performance in pass protection this preseason, Humphries will be looking to bounce back in his first regular season start as the team’s left tackle. It can only get better for Humphries, who allowed five pressures on 31 pass blocking snaps this preseason, a mark that ranked 132nd of 135 offensive tackles with at least 30 pass blocking snaps. He’ll be going up against defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who has accumulated 140 quarterback pressures from the right side since 2014, the third most among the league’s 4-3 defensive ends.
Coverage by: Alejandro Chavez
Matchup: Detroit Lions offense vs. Arizona Cardinals defense
QB Matthew Stafford vs. Edges Chandler Jones & Markus Golden – Fresh off of an extension, Stafford will be looking to get off to a fast start against Arizona. It will primarily be up to Jones and Golden to get enough pressure on Stafford to slow him down. When Stafford is kept clean, his passer rating is a solid 98.3. When he is pressured, that mark falls over 20 points, down to 78.2. It should be noted however, that his passer rating under pressure is the seventh-best in the league. Jones and Golden had matching 10.1 pass-rushing productivity marks last year, tied for 16th among 3-4 outside linebackers.
WR Golden Tate vs. CB Patrick Peterson – On the surface, Tate would seem overmatched here. Peterson’s 83.9 overall grade ranked 14th among cornerbacks last year, and Tate’s overall grade of 74.4 ranked only 58th last year among wide receivers. However, Peterson’s 12th-ranked 0.90 yards per cover snap rises to 1.27 when he’s asked to cover out of the slot. If he had played enough snaps to qualify, that would have ranked 34th in the NFL last year. Tate only ran 26.9 percent of his routes out of the slot last year, but his 1.59 yards per route run out of the slot ranked 20th in the NFL. The Lions might be best served figuring out how to get Tate matched up on Peterson on the interior.
RB Theo Riddick vs. LB Deone Bucannon – Another matchup of strength-on-strength, Riddick is one of the NFL’s better pass-catching backs. His 1.46 yards per route run ranked sixth among qualifying running backs last year. He also forced 14 missed tackles on plays where he caught the ball, third ranked among qualifying running backs. Bucannon offers a strong counter to Riddick’s game however. Bucannon only allowed 0.75 yards per cover snap last year (sixth among inside linebackers) and only allowed a reception once ever 10 cover snaps (20th). His tackle efficiency in the passing game was also ranked 25th (7.5 tackles attempted for every missed tackle).