A glance at five top storylines for Sunday’s Cardinals-Lions game at University of Phoenix Stadium:
- Patrick Peterson versus Calvin Johnson
Sure, the Lions have the makings of a very good offense. Yes, Lions coach Jim Schwartz made the point than any great receiver, be it Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, needs other weapons around him. But who are we kidding. Detroit QB Matthew Stafford said the Lions’ offense runs through Megatron, and there isn’t anyone who won’t be watching this matchup. Peterson had a pick last season in the two teams’ meeting; Johnson had 10 catches (but no TDs.) How can you not look forward to this?
- The temperament of Ndamukong Suh
The talented Lions defensive tackle has been all over the news after the first game after getting a hefty fine after a questionable block in the opener. Some argue that Suh didn’t even do much wrong on the play, but certainly his reputation and past bad acts change the prism within people view him. He’s good, and Bruce Arians knows his interior offense line will have its hands full. If Suh can keep focused and not do anything dumb, that’s a plus for the Lions. If he reverts, that will play into the Cardinals’ hands.
- Left-side improvement
The play of left tackle Levi Brown has dominated the storylines since St. Louis. Detroit does not have anyone like Robert Quinn on the outside – their defensive line strength is in the middle – and the talk all week has been about Brown working hard to correct his flaws. It needs to get better. “The standard is the standard” is what offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin said. It’s a nice way of saying Brown better pick up his play. The coaches say they think he will.
- What will Fitz do?
Having your star receiver on the injury report doesn’t make any team feel good. After Larry Fitzgerald’s solid first game with Carson Palmer – 8 catches, 80 yards, 2 TDs – it felt like the jumping-off point for a big season. But that’s assuming Fitz isn’t set back with his bad hamstring. He claims he’s fine, but there’s no way to really know until Sunday. Fitz hasn’t missed a game since Game 12 of the 2007 season. That’s a long time ago. Not having Fitz would put the Cards in a bind numbers-wise, since they only have three other receivers on the active roster. But the bigger issue would be simply not having Fitz. If he does play, the Cards have to hope he can be effective.
- Swarming Stafford
As well as Reggie Bush ran the ball last week, the Lions are still going to be a pass-first team. The Cardinals have to get pressure on him. They definitely have to generate more pressure than they were able against the Rams. That figures to start with more snaps from pass-rusher John Abraham, who played just 20 snaps in St. Louis. But both Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett noted this week they need to up their game, and that much is true. They aren’t the two most highly paid members of the front seven for nothing. The Cards count on their production, and the team needs to break into the sack column sooner rather than later.