Detroit Lions (7-2 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (8-1 SU, 7-2 ATS)
NFL Week 11
Date and Time: Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 4:25PM EST
Where: U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DET +1/ARI -1
Over/Under Total: 41
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In a big NFC matchup on Sunday, the Detroit Lions make the long southwest trip to face the Arizona Cardinals. At 8-1, the Cardinals have the best record in the NFL, with Detroit not far behind at 7-2. On Sunday, Detroit used a late TD drive to come from behind and beat the Dolphins, 20-16. The Cardinals moved to 8-1 with an explosive 4th-quarter, beating the Rams, 31-14
The result of Arizonas game became secondary as they lost QB Carson Palmer for the season with an ACL. Say what you will about Palmer, but he had a lot to do with the Cardinalss resurgence over the past year-plus. With a pass-defense that is ranked 30th, it hasnt always been the D that is winning games for the Cardinals. A lot of that had to do with Palmer and its hard to argue with the results–an amazing 15-3 record in their last 18 regular season games.
Cruelly, the injury happened days after the Cardinals signed Palmer to a $50M contract extension. And for Palmer, its a disaster professionally, as he was clearly in the best groove he had been in for years, if ever. Palmer also missed 3 games earlier this season, so at least replacement Drew Stanton has gotten his feet wet. And in the games he played, they were 2-1, with a loss to Denver being their only setback.
Detroit will be looking to capitalize on the misfortune of the Cardinals. Detroit has won 4 in a row. Their defense is playing at a high level, ranked 3rd against the pass, 4th against the run, and 1st in points allowed. Theyve recovered from some key injuries surprisingly well. But theyre not relying on defense, with Matthew Staffords big arm and all the weapons at his disposal. WR Calvin Johnson returned on Sunday in full-force, going for 113 yards and a TD catch. WR Golden Tate is nearing 1000 yards and with Johnson, could be the top 1-2 punch at WR in the conference. The run game is struggling, but Joique Bell and Reggie Bush can also make themselves useful in the passing game. Were only 9 games into the season and weve seen Detroit collapse after good starts before. And in their last three games, they have won by only a combined 6 points. But with the leagues top defense and an offense with teeth, we see what Detroit is trying
to do. With new coach Jim Caldwells calm stewardship, Detroit is a team worth watching.
This is not an easy road game for Detroit. They played Atlanta in London, had a bye week, before beating Miami at home. Now its off to Arizona and the Lions simply havent been that great on the road. They lost to Carolina, who have only won 2 other games this season. They won in a massive struggle against the Jets. Then they barely beat the slip-sliding Falcons. Now they will be facing an 8-1 team.
But thats just the thing. The Cardinals are 8-1, but with Drew Stanton, are they the same team? The former Spartans standout is 30 and before this season, had not thrown an NFL pass since 2010, when he was with the Lions, who drafted him in the second round in 2007. On one hand, he has completed under half of his passes so far, but he hasnt thrown a pick. If you told someone before the year began that a Drew Stanton-led team would go far in the NFL, you would have been laughed out of the room. Well, thats exactly the predicament the Cardinals now face and well see how it goes.
Stanton will be facing the NFLs best defense so far this season so its a rough re-entry exam for him. With a run game that is struggling, he will need to make connections with a nice receiving crew of resurgent Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, rookie John Brown, and RB Andre Ellington, who has caught 37 balls. Ted Ginn, Jr. is still a game-changing return man. In truth, the Cardinals have a defense that could help, ranked 4th in points allowed at 18.9 per game. They are very good against the run. But against Stafford and Company, that pass-defense is a major potential stumbling block this week. Its just that the experienced cannon-armed QB in Stafford is facing a weak secondary, while a QB no one even knew was still playing until this season is facing what might be the leagues best all-around defense.
This is where the coaching of Bruce Arians and staff will kick in with whatever mojo they have and it appears they have plenty. The team will band together and try to bridge other gaps to make up for the loss of Palmer. This is a defense that, after all, managed to still remain formidable, despite massive losses in the injury and suspension department. The Cardinals may eventually have to suffer as a result of the loss of Palmer, but expecting the wheels to fall off right away could be a miscalculation.
In a weird way and just for the purposes of this one game, the loss of Palmer may actually help from an urgency standpoint. If not for that, Arizona would be approaching this Sunday with more of a just another game mentality. With Stanton in there, this is a team that will be trying to prove to themselves and everyone else that they are still a top team. But I cant stop thinking this is just bad match-up for the Cardinals, especially with Palmer not in there. Im taking Detroit.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Detroit Lions plus 1 point.