The first game of the Detroit Lions regular season is Sunday. After an offseason full of growing anticipation and building excitement, the season has almost arrived. The Lions have finalized their roster and the entire NFL fan base is preparing for the first Sunday of professional football. For Detroit, and the rest of the NFL, it is time to get down to business. The path to the playoffs starts now, and the road to the ultimate goal, a Super Bowl Championship, is about to begin. The Lions host the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, here are three things they will have to do in order to win.
Rush for over 100 yards
The Lions struggled to run the ball effectively all of last season. As a team, they rushed for only 1,310 yards. Theo Riddick was the leading rusher with 357 yards, that’s not good. The lack of any type of consistent running game puts all the offensive pressure on the arm of Matthew Stafford. Detroit made moves to improve the offensive line this offseason, bringing in three new players. Guard T.J. Lang and tackles Greg Robinson and Rick Wagner. Even with Taylor Decker out to start the season, the Lions offensive line will be vastly improved. This should lead to a more effective rushing attack. If Ameer Abdullah remains healthy, the Lions will benefit further from his presence. Otherwise look for Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner to provide the majority of carries. Against the Cardinals, Detroit will need to run the ball effectively. If they can rush for over 100 yards against the Cardinals their chances of winning increase exponentially.
Pressure Carson Palmer
Last season Arizona was 26th in the league in sacks allowed, letting their QB be sacked 2.6 times a game. Detroit had a hard time getting to the QB last season, totaling a measly 26 sacks on the year. The Lions will have to step up the pressure on opposing QB’s if they want to return to the playoffs. With Carson Palmer coming to town the Lions will want to get in his face and disrupt the offensive timing. With weapons like David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald on the field, Detroit does not want to allow the Cardinals offense much time to get plays developed. Players Like Ezekiel Ansah and Cornelius Washington will have to provide a consistent pass rush come Sunday. If the defensive line can bother Palmer, they will have a much better opportunity to come away with a win.
Clear third-option pass catcher emerges
Detroit has one of the best quarterbacks in the business in Matthew Stafford. They also have a couple of more than capable pass catchers in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, but they will need a third option for Stafford to find downfield. Theo Riddick has been a capable receiver in screen plays, and quick out type routes, but the Lions need a third player that can stretch the field and make plays over the middle. The two most likely candidates for this role are tight end Eric Ebron or rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay. If one, or both of these players can establish themselves as down the field threats, the Lions offense will be a be challenge not just for the Cardinals, but for any team in the league.
I believe Detroit is the better team in this matchup and that they will come away with a victory this Sunday at Ford Field.