Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions Matchups to Watch

The Arizona Cardinals are Detroit Lions are set to face off this afternoon in Glendale, Arizona, and it’s going to be  an incredibly hot 4:05 p.m. game. The Lions are the favorites in this one after defeating the division rival Minnesota Vikings in Week 1, while the Cardinals fell to a division rival, the St. Louis Rams, in their opener. This should be a high-scoring game, because the Cardinals will look to throw the ball often with Carson Palmer and test the Lions downfield. Well, if Palmer can get enough time in the pocket, because the Cardinals offensive line will likely be exposed by a vicious Lions interior pass rush. Here are some matchups to watch this afternoon.

1. Calvin Johnson vs. Patrick Peterson

There’s really nothing more enticing than a marquee matchup that pits an elite receiver against an elite cornerback, and we’re in store for a nice battle between Johnson and Peterson. It’s definitely going to come down to more than just Peterson, though, because Johnson is such a great player that you can’t go into a game thinking that he can be stopped one-on-one. Johnson didn’t have his best game against the Minnesota Vikings, but that’s because they keyed in on him so much and left everybody else open. You have to focus on Johnson, but you can’t leave yourself vulnerable, because the Lions have other players who can make plays (look at the receiving running backs).

Peterson is largely responsible for shadowing the opponent’s best receiver, and I don’t anticipate the Cardinals doing anything different. He will most definitely get safety help, but they really cannot allow Nate Burleson and others feast on a defense that simply left them alone. That’s the impact one elite receiver can have on the game, but the impact of a shutdown corner is just as important; they can take that kind of receiver out of the game if the stars align.

2. Lions receiving RBs vs. Cardinals linebackers in coverage

Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are two of the best pass-catching running backs in the entire league, and the Minnesota Vikings learned that the hard way last week. Both players combined for a ridiculous nine catches for 168 yards, and those two certainly make life easier for Matthew Stafford. If Jasper Brinkley has to face one of those two players in coverage, then the Cardinals are going to have some huge trouble. Although Karlos Dansby can hold his own in coverage, I’m not sold on the rest of the Cardinals linebackers, and “holding your own” is also different from “shutting down” an elite pass-catching RB in coverage. Brinkley is a huge weakness in the Cardinals defense that the Lions can exploit by sending Bell or Bush in his direction.

3. Michael Floyd/Andre Roberts vs. Darius Slay

I’m not quite sure who Darius Slay will line up against, so I’ll just list both of these guys. Right now, Larry Fitzgerald‘s status is in doubt (he’s a game-time decision), and his absence would mean that “X” receiver Michael Floyd would likely line up against Chris Houston with Slay on Andre Roberts. If Fitz is healthy, I would expect Slay to face Floyd, because the Cardinals will most likely run three-wide sets and place Andre Roberts in the slot (he would play against Slay in two-wide sets).

Well, no matter who he faces Darius Slay will need to have a good game, because he simply did not play well at all against the Vikings. Making his debut, Slay was eaten alive by Jerome Simpson, and that certainly was not a good result. He had an awful game, and Slay will need to shake things off and play more like he did in August (he was impressive in the offseason). The Mississippi State rookie has talent and can hold his own against Floyd, but all it takes is a play for two for a CB to get burned and embarrassed. He needs to tighten things up today, because he clearly had issues last week.

4. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley vs. Arizona Cardinals interior OL

Lyle Sendlein is a dependable center, but I can’t say the same for the two players around him on the Cardinals offensive line. Daryn Colledge is a very good run blocker, but he has his issues in pass protection at left guard. Meanwhile, Paul Fanaika is definitely not a dependable starter, and he had issues against the Rams last week. These three players will be tasked with blocking a vicious Detroit Lions DT group, and Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are two extremely disruptive presences in the passing game. I have some faith that Colledge can step up, but it looks like Fanaika is going to be a huge weak link, especially since he is going up against Suh. This is a pivotal matchup, because Palmer needs some time to help test the Lions secondary. He was able to put together an amazing game last week despite a lack of time in the pocket, but interior pressure comes quicker than exterior pressure. This is a big matchup to watch for closely, and we’ll see if the Arizona Cardinals can pull it together and contain Suh and Fairley.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter for more NFL updates and analysis @SorianoJoe. Be sure to like us on Facebook here and follow our site on Twitter as well.

Tags: Andre Roberts Arizona Cardinals Calvin Johnson Carson Palmer Darius Slay Daryn Colledge Detroit Lions Jasper Brinkley Joique Bell Karlos Dansby Larry Fitzgerald Lyle Sendlein Michael Floyd Ndamukong Suh Nick Fairley Patrick Peterson Paul Fanaika Reggie Bush

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