Lions vs. Cardinals: Detroit Can Set the Tone for 2013 in Week 15
Really this is a chance for the Lions to try to gain some momentum going into the offseason and regain some footing.
Here are five things they need to do in order to win on Sunday.
1. Shut Down Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald is not only the best weapon the Cardinals have offensively, he's the only one they have. Everyone else is unable to compensate for the struggles of the quarterback position the way Fitzgerald can.
Even then, he has his limits. The past four games have seen Fitzgerald not score one touchdown or top 100 yards. In fact, Fitzgerald has only had more than 100 yards once this season, back in Week 3.
That's not to say he's not dangerous, and the moment they take him for granted will be the one he's able to burn them and find a way to get a second 100-yard game.
2. Move Calvin Johnson Around (Avoid Patrick Peterson)
While the Lions have lost often this season, Calvin Johnson continues to put up massive numbers. This week he runs up against one of the best cornerbacks in the league, Patrick Peterson.
Peterson is going to line up on Johnson as much as possible. The Lions have little in the way of other weapons with Ryan Broyles, Nate Burleson and Titus Young on injured reserve.
The Lions need to move Johnson around a lot and avoid Peterson as much as possible.
While I have little doubt Johnson can beat Peterson plenty of times, the more the Lions can move Johnson away from the Arizona defensive back, the better.
Yes, there are some other options for the Lions to throw to. No, none of them come close to Johnson.
3. Get the Ground Game Going
As Johnson is pretty much it in the passing game, the Lions have to establish their ground game. They've actually done a fair job moving the ball in that fashion anyway.
If they don't the defense will just tee off on both Johnson and Matt Stafford. This defense is a very good unit, the 58-point beating from last week notwithstanding.
Really, if ever a defense was poised to have a statement game, this one is it. You don't walk away from a beating like that, with the talent they have, and not end up twice as determined as before.
So establishing a ground game with Mike Leshoure and Joique Bell is a good way to take control of the game early and knock the Cardinals back on their heels.
4. Pressure the Quarterback
Ryan Lindley is not a good quarterback. The Lions have issues in the secondary, but Lindley may make them look like the greatest group in the history of the NFL.
Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Co. should be able to have a free for all in the backfield, and Lindley does not respond well to pressure.
Actually, Lindley doesn't respond well to just about anything.
There is zero reason, with this offensive line, lack of running game and limited receiving corps, that the Lions wouldn't have multiple sacks.
Coming away with a poor day of low pressure and no sacks would be unacceptable.
5. Keep Control
If there is one thing the Lions have to do (aside from win) it's prove they can play in control. That goes for everyone, including the head coach.
The world wants to believe this team is out of control, and so far the Lions haven't done much to dissuade that notion.
That should start to change now.
I started this piece talking about gaining momentum to carry the Lions into next year. That includes starting to turn around the perception that this team cannot play effective, aggressive football which is also not riddled with penalty flags.
Listen, there is a lot to be said about the NFL flagging way too many things that don't need a penalty. And sure, if the Lions were winning perhaps the media and fans would overlook the penalties.
But the team isn't winning, and so the media and fans won't ignore it.
With just three games left, the Lions can set the tone for next season now.
It starts this weekend.
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