With the Arizona Cardinals hosting the Detroit Lions on Sunday, I got together with Pride Of Detroit lead writer Sean Yuille and did a couple of previews. He was a guest on our podcast and we also exchanged some questions. I answered his questions here.
These are what he answered for me:
ROTB: The injury bug has been bothering the Lions this season. It looks like Larry Warford, Reggie Bush and Nick Fairley will not be able to go on Sunday. How does this change things for what Detroit can do?
PoD: In all honesty, I don't think it changes that much. On offense, the Lions have been without Bush on multiple occasions this season, and they haven't exactly missed him. Theo Riddick has done a nice job of stepping in for Bush, and Joique Bell has seemingly been a more effective runner anyway. Granted, it could be tougher this week for Bell and Riddick to get anything going with Warford, the Lions' right guard, out with a knee injury, but it's not like the running game has been all that effective even with Warford. The more concerning thing there is his absence in pass protection, but given how bad the Lions' offensive line has been this year, it's tough to imagine them looking a whole lot worse on Sunday.
On defense, not having Nick Fairley is tough from a talent standpoint, but the Lions' defensive line is playing at a high enough level that they can certainly get by without him. C.J. Mosley was a starting-caliber player even before stepping in for Fairley, and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is very creative when it comes to generating pressure. Having Fairley would be nice, but I don't think the overall game plan changes much without him.
ROTB: Who would you consider to be the Lions' midseason MVP? What about midseason disappointment?
PoD: For the midseason MVP, I'd go with Golden Tate on offense and DeAndre Levy on defense. Tate made a ton of big plays when Calvin Johnson was out, and the Lions wouldn't be 7-2 without him. As for Levy, he has been one of the top outside linebackers in the NFL, and he's really stepped it up as a leader on defense since Stephen Tulloch tore his ACL.
For the midseason disappointment, I'd go with the Lions' kicking game as a whole. Nate Freese and Alex Henery were disasters at kicker for the Lions early in the year, and poor kicking directly cost them a win against the Buffalo Bills. And even since signing Matt Prater there have still been issues. I'm not sure if they've been cursed by the retirement of Jason Hanson or what, but it's been frustrating to see something as simple as kicking a field goal give this team so many issues.
ROTB: What will it take for the Lions to hold off the Packers and win the division?
PoD: For starters, the Lions can't afford to drop winnable games. With the Cardinals this week and a road game against the New England Patriots next week, the Lions could easily be a 7-4 team going into Thanksgiving. The good news is they have a stretch of games coming up against the Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Bears again. The first three games there are all at home, and those are all games the Lions have to win with the Packers right there in the NFC North race.
The other main thing is that the Lions need to be able to win at Lambeau Field for the first time since 1991. That stadium has been an absolute house of horrors for the Lions the last two decades, but it's possible their Week 17 matchup at Green Bay could decide the division. If the Lions want to win their first-ever NFC North title, they may have to finally put an end to that Lambeau losing streak.
ROTB: If you could have one player from Arizona's roster, who would it be and why?
PoD: Patrick Peterson is the easy choice here. Even though the Lions already have the NFL's top-ranked defense from a yards standpoint, they don't necessarily have a shutdown corner. Darius Slay has improved a great deal, and perhaps he will develop into that type of player down the road, but having a talent like Peterson in the secondary would take this defense to another level.
ROTB: Assume the Lions win. How does it go down?
PoD: A Lions win on Sunday would likely involve a low-scoring game that develops into a defensive struggle. That, surprisingly, has been the recipe for success for the Lions this year. The offense hasn't really exploded yet, so it'll be up to the defense to keep the score low. That could lead to a late opportunity for the Lions to win, and based on what they've done in their last three games, chances are this win would come in dramatic fashion.