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Arizona Cardinals at the Detroit Lions game preview

An interesting challenge for two teams who have yet to find true success.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

First and foremost, welcome to the 2017-18 regular season, everybody! This is bound to be a really fun season, with some old and some new faces joining the team. I had a really fun time doing these previews during the preseason, so I’m going to keep them going through the regular! It should be a good time.

Let’s get into it.

Sunday afternoon at 1pm EST, the Cardinals will be facing off against the Detroit Lions.

The Lions of course are spearheaded by Matthew Stafford, one of the most fascinating quarterbacks in the NFL.

Stafford has had an interesting tenure with Detroit. In 2009, he was drafted as the first overall pick and has been with the Lions ever since. Obviously, they’ve probably got a good reason to keep him, but, he hasn’t always been a great player.

His first year, he threw 20 interceptions, and ended with a passer rating of 61. Not great but he grew and in 2011 he showed amazing resolve, completing 63.5% of his passes, 41 of them were touchdowns.

He finished that year with a 97.1 rating and the NFL’s “Comeback Player of the Year” award. Though that year was great, it wasn’t a fluke.

He continued on with great success, having another 97 rating in 2015. Last year he finished with 65% completion percent, a 93.3 passer rating, and 10 interceptions - exactly half of what he got in his first season. That’s improvement.

Carson Palmer’s first season with the Cardinals was 2013.

Above, you can see a graph comparing Matthew Stafford and Carson Palmer’s passer ratings. It’s almost freaky the correlation you can see from 2012-present. Palmer and Stafford are very equally matched quarterbacks, at least data-wise.

But, Carson has had a much more volatile career. If you don’t count Stafford’s disaster rookie season, he’s been pretty consistently average to above-average. Palmer on the other hand, has been all over the place. He went from a career-low passer rating of 69.0 in 2008 to a career-high passer rating of 104.6 in 2015. In between that... he’s been okay, but not great.

The real question is, does any of this matter? To be honest, probably not. Both QBs are good, but they’ve historically struggled to find consistency in their success. So, this is going to lead to a really fun matchup on Sunday.

Now, let’s take a look at the teams as a whole. Last season, the Lions were finished with a better record than the Cardinals even if they only ended the regular season 9-7.

However, they were blitzed 26-6 in post-season against the dreaded Seattle Seahawks. This was partly due to Stafford’s injured middle finger, but it still is very symbolic of the Lions other problems.

The Cardinals on the other hand, finishing 7-8-1, didn’t have nearly the success that was expected, but they were not too far off of Detroit.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what the problem was, but we can definitely pin some of those losses against the special teams unit for the Cardinals. Luckily, that probably won’t happen again now that Arizona has got Phil Dawson, a veteran kicker and Andy Lee, one of the best punters in the NFL.

Historically, Arizona has done very well against Detroit.

The Carson Palmer era Cardinals have beaten them all three times they’ve met, yet that hasn’t been all Palmer, as the Lions offense has always struggled against the Cardinals powerful defense.

So, who do I think is going to win? It’s a toss-up.

The Lions are a very good offensive team and can get down the field fast, but the Cardinals have a very formidable defense. Can the Lions get through the wall up front and beat the backend of Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson?

I feel like the Cardinals have a slight edge on this one, but honestly the Lions have a good chance to make some plays.... If they can get stops on defense.

If the Cardinals can keep Stafford from making throws, it should be on lock.

Stay tuned to Revenge of the Birds for coverage on gameday, and more post-game analysis!