To the Arizona Cardinals, 4-0 must seem like 10 years ago. Many people forget that the now lost Cardinals started 2012 undefeated and were the talk of the league in early fall. Now, one week removed from getting housed 58-0 by the Seattle Seahawks, they're the talk of the league again for all the wrong reasons after losing their ninth straight game. For all those wondering if the Detroit Lions have quit, I present to you the 2012 Cardinals, who neither pass nor run nor play defense well enough to be considered a one dimensional team.
Instead, these birds are simply none dimensional. The Lions do have their well documented problems this season, but the Cardinals seem to have many, many more. When compared, it's shocking that both these teams are 4-9. Here's an inside look at what the Cardinals do and don't do so well.
Cardinals' Offensive Difference Maker: Larry Fitzgerald, WR. If there's a super talent currently going more to waste in the NFL than Fitzgerald is in the desert, be sure to let me know. Ever since Kurt Warner traded in his passing gloves for a microphone, the Cardinals haven't been able to replace him at quarterback. As a result, Fitzgerald has struggled to make his usually big impact on games, and has looked even more lost this season, only snagging four touchdowns thus far. The Lions' defensive blueprint is simple: take away Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts (who's actually been statistically better than Fitzgerald this season) and LaRod Stephens-Howling and likely win the game quite easily.
Cardinals' Defensive Difference Maker: Daryl Washington, LB. The defensive version of Fitzgerald, few will realize that Washington is having an incredible season statistically this year. He's cleaned up 108 tackles and contributed nine sacks, placing him near the top of the league's individual defensive categories. Many defenses would kill to have a linebacker with the thump and abilities of Washington. The Lions might not have their hands as full with many other Arizona players, but Washington is the one guy to watch out for Sunday.
Cardinals' Major Strength: Getting off the field on third down. Struggling to find any statistical light at the end of the tunnel for Arizona in my research, I finally stumble upon third down defense. The Cardinals, somewhat surprisingly, are a top five team in the league with regards to that important statistic, allowing merely 33 percent conversion rate. That's not half bad, and Arizona's exploits have them tied with the likes of the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. The Lions, a team which has struggled to keep the offense going this year, will need to be as efficient as they were in the first half in Green Bay against the Cardinals on third down. This is especially true given another road environment.
Cardinals' Major Weakness: Quarterback consistency. This week, the Cardinals signed Brian Hoyer, formally of New England, for extra quarterback depth. Kevin Kolb has been dinged up and inconsistent, John Skelton has been terrible and nobody else has been competent. Who will the Cardinals throw out there next? Might it be Hoyer? Nobody knows for sure. One thing is for certain, whomever finds themselves under center this weekend will be in for an interesting afternoon with Detroit's pass rush. Arizona doesn't protect the quarterback well, having given up 51 sacks in 2012, good for dead last in the NFC. Look out for pressure.
Intangibles: Who wants it more? That's the biggest question this week, as the Lions come in riding a five game losing skid and the Cardinals remain on their much more epic nine game run of futility. This week, during an insignificant game in the standings, we'll find out which team has essentially given up on the season completely. Given what we've talked about today, the Lions should be able to dominate this game start to finish, but nothing is certain in the NFL, and if Detroit has a poor mindset, Arizona could steal a win at home. If the Lions have in fact quit, we'll find out this weekend.
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