All In The Cards: Week 5

Welcome back a new edition of All In the Cards! This week the Cardinals try to rebound from a disappointing loss to the St. Louis Rams by taking on the Detroit Lions. Both recent history and statistics say the Cards have a great shot at winning but anything can happen in the NFL. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s see how these two teams stack up against each other:

Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions

Last Meeting: W 14-6 vs. Detroit (11/16/14), Cards have won last six meetings (last Detroit win was 11/13/05)

We all knew the Arizona Cardinals wouldn’t go undefeated and I even said last week that there was a chance it would end against the Rams. With the Cards losing there are now six teams left in the NFL without a loss. That’s not too surprising on its own; what is surprising is that in contrast there is only one team without a win: the Detroit Lions. The Lions have been in this position quite a few times, having started the season with four or more consecutive losses four times since 2000. However it has been awhile, with the last instance occurring in 2010. With the amount of parity in the NFL, there should be no fear of the Lions going 0-16, like they infamously did in 2008. However, the fear of missing the postseason is on full tilt as a loss this week eliminates any chance of playing in January.

The Lions will have to hope for a reversal of fate as they take on a Cardinals team that has owned them for a decade. The last time the Lions defeated the Cardinals was week 10 of the 2005 season, when Joey Harrington threw three touchdown passes to Roy Williams to lead the Lions to a 29-21 victory. My first takeaway is that I feel old because I remember those Lions teams very well. My second takeaway is that I believe Larry Fitzgerald is the only player on either team that played in that game and will play in Sunday’s game. In that 2005 matchup, Fitzgerald had nine catches for 141 yards and a score so you would reasonably think that that Fitz continued to shred the Lions and the Cards ended up winning those games because they got better players around him. That is actually wrong. During the Cards six-game winning streak over the Lions, Fitzgerald has accounted for 22 catches, 228 yards and three touchdowns TOTAL. Fitz already has more catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns so far this season.

What’s really intriguing about this streak is that almost every win was memorable because of its timing. The first win, a 17-10 victory in 2006, gave Arizona its first win since week one, snapping an eight-game losing streak. That’s not even the longest losing streak the Cards snapped against the Lions, as they ended a nine-game losing streak in 2012 in what would be Arizona’s only win after starting the season 4-0. In 2009, a Cardinals win over the Lions coupled with a San Francisco 49ers loss in week 15 gave Arizona its second consecutive NFC West crown. The Cardinals victory over Detroit in 2013 marked Bruce Arians first win as Arizona’s head coach. Finally, the Cardinals victory last season came in the first game following Carson Palmer’s season-ending injury.

You can see by now how one would think that the Cardinals have owned the Lions. Despite most of the games being rather close, the Cards always got the win they needed. They need a win this week too so they can move on from their loss to St. Louis. However, Detroit needs it more. Will fate shine on the Lions or will the Cardinals continue to use them as their stepladder?

The Lions will need all the luck they can get as this matchup really favors the Cardinals. With the Cardinals recent history of having trouble covering tight ends and other big receiving targets, you would think that Calvin Johnson would give the Lions a big advantage. While Johnson has been effective (37 catches, 368 yards and two TDs in five games) he has never been able to score on the defense with the exception of 2013 when he scored both of his touchdowns. This year “Megatron” hasn’t looked like himself, having yet to top 100 receiving yards in a game despite averaging nearly 12 targets and having only one touchdown.

It’s not like those yards are transferring over to the run game either as the Lions have rushed for a total of 188 yards this season or 47 rushing yards per game. To put that in perspective, five teams have already rushed for more in a single game than the Lions have all season. That means even more pressure has been placed on Matthew Stafford, who has already throw 165 passes this season (second only to Ryan Tannehill’s 171) Stafford is on pace to throw 652 passes this season, which would mark the fifth consecutive year he has thrown over 600 passes. That is just one less season than if you added Tom Brady and Peyton Manning’s 600 pass seasons together and the only quarterback with more is Drew Brees with seven such seasons. For all those passes, the Lions barely rank in the top half of the league in passing yards (245.8 per game, good for 15th). They now face the eighth best defense against the pass in the Cardinals, who have allowed just a yard under 200 per game.

Unlike last week, the Lions don’t have the defense to slow down Arizona’s offense enough to keep them in the game. The Detroit defense is 23rd in passing yards allowed (271.5) and are the second worst team in the NFL when it comes to holding teams on third down (allowing opponents to convert 46% of the time). While the three turnovers helped the Rams get ahead of the Cardinals, it was allowing only two third down conversions in 11 attempts that won St. Louis the game. I don’t think the Lions can replicate that kind of success. Unfortunately they’ll need to in order to pull off the upset, end the losing streak and have any hope of turning this season around. That is going to take way too much luck for me to even consider picking the Lions, but you never know. Maybe this time things will finally go Detroit’s way.

Prediction: Arizona 30, Detroit 13

Other NFL Week 5 Predictions:

  • Indianapolis 23, Houston 16
  • Atlanta 27, Washington 17
  • Buffalo 28, Tennessee 20
  • Kansas City 31, Chicago 17
  • Cincinnati 23, Seattle 19
  • Baltimore 30, Cleveland 17
  • Philadelphia 28, New Orleans 24
  • Green Bay 34, St. Louis 10
  • Jacksonville 17, Tampa Bay 16
  • New England 33, Dallas 18
  • Denver 24, Oakland 14
  • New York Giants 34, San Francisco 17
  • Pittsburgh 24, San Diego 20