Let’s have a look:
Start of the Week: Cardinals D/ST
Matt Stafford is 0-4 versus the Cardinals all time with eight sacks, only three touchdowns and seven, that’s right, SEVEN interceptions.
Granted, Stafford hasn’t had a decent collection of wide receivers like he has now with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. or Kenny Galladay and Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are healthy.
But, Stafford also doesn’t have Calvin Johnson now either, or a defense that’s likely capable of stopping all of Arizona’s weapons. The easiest possibility to see with this combination and Arizona’s return to taking the ball away as Tyrann Mathieu is healthy again is that the Lions could struggle to stop Arizona offensively and Stafford has to throw the ball a lot more while playing from behind. That and with his offensive line revamped and shackled with injuries it could mean that Stafford continues his streak of turning the ball over against Arizona.
He just plain struggles against their defense. Even when the Cardinals were starting Ryan Lindley at quarterback, Stafford couldn’t find a way to beat them. Feel free to start Arizona’s defense with confidence.
Prediction: 4 sacks, 2 INT’s, possibly one for 6.
Cardinals Start: WR John Brown
While I’m tempted to go with Larry Fitzgerald here (and he might indeed end up with a touchdown and quite a few yards from the slot, I have a gut feeling that a healthy John Brown ends up being the talk of week one.
Brown is finally healthy after a 2016 season in which he was severely hampered by injury and as we saw in the Falcons preseason game, he’s a dangerous threat. Schematically versus Detroit, he would usually be matched up against Darius Slay and might not make as much noise.
It’s not John but JARON Brown who has been WR2 throughout the Cardinals camp, and he’s the one who should be expected to start opposite of Fitzgerald, and I’d expect that he or Fitzgerald will end up being the one to draw Slay in coverage. This will mean that John Brown will get a chance that he might not normally have gotten, and I’d think that the Lions safeties will focus more attention on Fitzgerald and David Johnson as it is. Start Brown if you drafted him and flourish this week.
Prediction: 89 yards, 1 Touchdown
Lions Start: Golden Tate, WR
Start Tate, even though he’ll be covered by Patrick Peterson?
Yes, because I don’t think that Peterson will draw Tate 100% of the time all game long. Tate will move around and like the Seattle Seahawks have shown in how they’ve moved Doug Baldwin around, there are matchups against guys like Bethel or Tramon/Brandon Williams to be found. I think that Tate’s elusiveness will get him a fine day, though he won’t clip 100 yards. But Peterson’s been definitely known to have been beat at times, even if he’s owned Stafford everytime he’s played them.
Prediction: 65 yards, 1 TD.
Cardinals Sit: WR J.J Nelson
If you took Nelson in your draft after he was effectively WR2 last year, you might not see the same results he showed the last 8 games of the year. He’s fallen behind Jaron and John Brown as WR4 and when the Cardinals go five wide to get him on the field, their lineup of: Fitzgerald, Brown, Brown, David Johnson and J.J. Nelson puts Nelson as the FIFTH passing option for Palmer.
He’s a boom-or-bust player and unless one of the Browns has an injury issue (always a possibility with John and Jaron’s coming off of an ACL) there’s no reason to play Nelson even against a pass-happy Lions defense.
Prediction: 1 catch, 6 yards.
Lions Sit: QB Matthew Stafford
I had considered Ameer Abdullah here given Arizona’s tough play against the run the last few years, but they showed some struggles in the preseason versus the Bears in being able to contain and stop the run against a shifty back. Abdullah might go of. Rather, if you have a different QB option than Stafford who might be better, it’s probably good to consider them.
For the same reasons as given previously, the Arizona defense appears to be tougher this year in the secondary than last year, and while it’s the first game of the season at home, Stafford’s track record against the Cardinals is just...miserable.
And with an offensive line that’s missing their starting left tackle, the new highest-paid player in NFL history might be in for a very long day.
Prediction: 220 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 fumble lost.
Sleeper Pick: TE Jermaine Gresham & TE Darren Fells
Fells has been solid for the Lions and will be facing his former team. I could see him be utilized in a matchup situation against the Cardinals’ rookie ILB Hasaan Reddick as there’s a size difference and Fells is quite fleet of foot. It wouldn’t surprise me if he caught a few passes or a touchdown in the redzone.
Jermaine Gresham is also a player who Palmer has looked to more frequently in the offseason. While I think David Johnson gets the bulk of the goal-line carries, Arizona could certainly change things up and fake it to Johnson and go to Gresham instead a time or two.
Prediction: 50 receiving yards / 40 Yards, 1 TD
David Johnson Prediction Time:
I’ll go with a more modest output for Johnson even though Detroit’s linebackers don’t have the speed to keep up with him.
DJ Prediction: 77 yards rushing, 74 yards receiving, 2 TD’s.