The Detroit Lions kickoff their season on September 8th at 4 PM against the Arizona Cardinals. They will be facing off against rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury and first overall pick Kyler Murray. Here are three key match-ups for the Lions to win in Phoenix.
Lions D-Line vs Cardinals O-Line:
On paper, the Lions have a big advantage in this match-up. The Lions defensive line has three top end talents with DT Damon Harrison, DT Mike Daniels and DE Trey Flowers. On the other hand, the Cardinals offensive line struggled mightily last year surrendering 52 sacks and 109 QB hits in 2018.
If the Lions can win the battle of the trenches, they can slow down David Johnson and force Kyler Murray to beat them with his arm. This would put a lot of pressure on a rookie quarterback making his first ever start. Plus, it would allow the Flowers and Daniels to pin their ears back and get after the passer.
A weakness from 2016-17, ranking 27th (2016) and 22nd (2017), has been turned into a big strength. The #Lions ranked 6th last season and come into 2019 as the 5th ranked run defense in the NFL by @PFF #OnePride https://t.co/dW7QOTOdzG— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) July 16, 2019
Lions Linebackers vs Kyler Murray:
Last year, the Lions did a good job limiting running quarterbacks such as Cam Newton (2 yards rushing) and Russell Wilson (15 yards rushing). Murray is a dynamic athlete who could tear up a defense using his legs if given the opportunity. The linebacking core will most likely be without Jarrad Davis, so some combination of Jahlani Tavai, Christian Jones, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin will need to step up and contain Murray when he escapes the pocket. Keeping Murray in the pocket will force him to rely on his below average offensive line and receiving core.
Lions Receivers vs Cardinals Defensive Backs:
The Cardinals defensive backs are going to be shorthanded going into Week 1. Star cornerback Patrick Peterson will be suspended, and the other starter, Robert Alford was just placed on the IR. The Cardinals will be relying on rookie Byron Murphy and journeyman Tramaine Brock. The Lions trio of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr, and Danny Amendola should be able to expose the weakened Cardinal secondary. If they are able to do this, it will open up the Lions offense and allow the running game to thrive.
The Lions start off the season as a road favorite against the Cardinals. There is still some unknown with the Cardinals as no one truly knows what Kingsbury’s offense will look like. However, if the Lions force Kyler Murray to win the game with his arm and can expose their depleted secondary, they should be able to start the season off 1-0.