The Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions, two of the coldest teams in the NFL of late, will square-off this weekend in Glendale, Ariz.
Neither team has won a game since November, when the Lions (4-9) beat the woeful Jaguars in Jacksonville. The Lions' most recent failing came in Green Bay last week, where they lost 27-20 on Sunday Night Football. The defeat was their 21st straight in Lambeau, and their fifth consecutive overall.
But the mess Detroit made in Green Bay was nothing compared to the egg that Arizona laid in Seattle. The Cardinals (4-9) were criminally listless against the Seahawks, dropping their ninth straight game by a 58-point margin.
This week's game won't have any impact on the postseason, but it's worth watching to see which team is more capable—or, rather, less incapable—of snapping their prolonged losing streak.
Let's take a closer look:
When: Sunday, Dec. 16th – 4:05 p.m. ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Watch: Fox (Check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Detroit -6.5 (via VegasInsider.com – LVH)
Most books opened this game at Detroit -3, but eager bettors—particularly those with images of the Cardinals-Seahawks game still fresh in their mind—have since bet that all the way up to 6.5.
This seems like it might be an overreaction. Detroit has, after all, failed to cover in four of their last five games. Is it possible that backing Arizona after such a massive loss could provide value?
Detroit ranks 12th in Football Outsiders' efficiency rankings, while the Cardinals rank a paltry 28th. The 27-point advantage the Lions have in DVOA makes them the clear and worthy favorite.
There are actually some palpable signs of a "trap game" here, so I'd advise staying away. But if I had to play, there's no way I'd be putting my money on the Cardinals.
Over/Under: 43.5 (via VegasInsider.com – LVH)
The ship has steadied in recent weeks, but at one point this season, the Cardinals were 1-7 against the over—and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why.
Arizona ranks dead-last in Football Outsiders' offensive efficiency rankings, and does so by a large margin—like, a very large margin. The Cardinals haven't scored 20 points since September 30th. (For context sake, the first presidential debate took place on October 3rd.)
Detroit is capable of putting up points, and are equally adept at surrendering them. But unless we get a repeat of last week's debacle, it's hard to see how a game involving Ryan Lindley reaches 44 points.
Bet the under.
Detroit Lions Injury Report (via USA Today – 12/13/12)
|CB Don Carey||Knee||Probable|
|OT Corey Hilliard||Knee||Probable|
|CB Chris Houston||Hamstring||Questionable|
|CB Jacob Lacey||Achilles||Questionable|
|TE Brandon Pettigrew||Ankle||Questionable|
|S Louis Delmas||Knee||Questionable|
Arizona Cardinals Injury Report (via USA Today – 12/13/12)
|DE Calais Campbell||Calf||Probable|
|WR Early Doucet||Concussion||Questionable|
|DE Ronald Talley||Ankle||Questionable|
|WR LaRon Byrd||Head||Questionable|
Fantasy Big Plays
Detroit Lions: RB Mikel Leshoure
The frustrating—albeit justified—time-share with Joique Bell continues to cap his value. But if Leshoure is ever gonna truly break out this year, Week 15 is his week.
The Lions are typically headstrong in the passing game, but against the Cardinals, they'd be wise to feature the run. According to Football Outsiders, the Cardinals have the second-best pass defense in the NFL, but just the 20th-best unit against the run.
Both Marshawn Lynch and rookie Robert Turbin surpassed 100 yards rushing against the Cardinals last weekend. A repeat of that dual-success isn't likely, but Leshoure should still put up a reasonable facsimile of their numbers.
Arizona Cardinals: RB Beanie Wells
I can't, in all good conscious, give a whole-hearted recommendation to any of these guys. Not a single one. I think any fantasy player who's still alive in Week 15 has probably gotten this far by avoiding the Cardinals at all costs.
That being said, if I absolutely had to play one this week, it'd be Beanie.
He's averaging a meager 2.4 yards per carry, sure, but he's also got a juicy matchup in Detroit this week. The Lions rank 24th in the league in defending the run (h/t Football Outsiders), and just last weekend they made Alex Green look like a competent NFL running back.
If you've got better options, use them. If not, give Beanie a try and see how it plays out.
Key to Victory: Patrick Peterson vs. Calvin Johnson
Peterson, the Cardinals' sensational sophomore cornerback, has talked up his ability to shut down the league's best receiver. On Sunday, he'll have to put his money where his mouth is.
It trivializes the Lions' offense to say the whole thing runs through Megatron. Matt Stafford does have a number of other, semi-capable weapons at his disposal. But that the fact of the matter remains: When Calvin Johnson struggles, so too do the Lions.
Detroit has scored 20-plus points in all nine games that Johnson has surpassed 100 receiving yards. In the four games where he hasn't, they've been held under 20 points in three of those contests.
If Patrick Peterson can back up his smack talk, the Cardinals' highly rated defense could keep them in the game throughout—long enough, perhaps, to steal a much-needed victory.
How could you pick the Cardinals after what happened last week? Seriously, how?
I entertained the "trap game" theory for a while, but then decided I was over-thinking it. Even against a defense like Detroit's—one that's prone to fits of softness—there's no way that Ryan Lindley can put up 20 points.
And even against a defense as stout as Arizona's, it's hard to see the Lions scoring under that.
Predicted Score: Detroit 31, Arizona 10