Lions, Cardinals rise from bottom to NFL elitePosted: Updated:
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- For years, the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals were two of the NFL's most consistent bottom feeders.
Now, they find themselves among the league's elite.
Heading into their game Sunday, the Lions lead the NFC North at 7-2, the Cardinals have the league's best record at 8-1.
"Nobody would have picked Arizona-Detroit as the marquee matchup of the NFL in Week 11," Detroit safety Glover Quin said.
Since 2001, the Lions have had one winning season. The Cardinals had one winning season from 1985 to their Super Bowl run of 2008, then went 5-11 in consecutive seasons before first-year coach Bruce Arians led them to a 10-6 mark a year ago.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell, in his first season in Detroit, wouldn't talk about the implications this game might have down the road on playoff seeding.
"We don't even talk about the playoffs or anything of that nature," he said.
Arians is not the cautious type, though.
"Hell yeah," he said when asked if he thinks about the bearing this game has on the standings. "It's for the No. 1 seed in the NFC right now."
The Cardinals are 8-1 for the first time since 1948, but the euphoria of the fan base was tempered this week with the news that quarterback Carson Palmer is out for the season with a torn ACL.
The job falls to backup Drew Stanton, 2-1 as a starter when Palmer was out with a shoulder injury earlier this season. Stanton hadn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since he played for the Lions in 2010.
He will face perhaps the most formidable defense in the NFL. Detroit is ranked No. 1 overall in defense.
Stanton said the Lions create big problems by being able to pressure the quarterback with a four-man rush led by Ndamukong Suh. That allows Detroit to drop seven into coverage.
"We have some ways to try to neutralize that and keep them at bay," Stanton said.
Caldwell said it helps in preparation for Stanton to have video from his three earlier starts.
"The more the opportunity we have to study a guy, the better," Caldwell said. "Fortunately, there is a bit of tape on him. ... Not saying that's going to help us, but nevertheless we have a little bit more than just a snippet of information."
Detroit, which hasn't had a record this good through nine games since 1993, has a significant injury problem, too. The Lions could be without running back Reggie Bush with an ankle injury that has prevented him from practicing.
Here are things to look for when the Lions play the Cardinals.
CAN ANYBODY RUN?: Detroit has the No. 2 run defense in the league. Arizona ranks No. 3.
The Cardinals haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 19 consecutive games.
And neither of these teams has been a powerhouse on the ground. The Lions rank 31st out of 32 teams in yards rushing (77.8), the Cardinals 29th (83.6). In last week's 31-14 victory over St. Louis, Arizona rushed for a season-low 28 yards in 22 carries.
"I think the guys have a lot of pride up front and take it as an insult that we weren't able to run the football better than we did in that ball game," Arians said.
MEGATRON VS PATRICK PETERSON: Calvin Johnson returned for Detroit last week after missing three games due to injury, catching seven passes for 113 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown reception.
It will be the third time that cornerback Patrick Peterson will have to deal with the Lions star receiver. Peterson had two fourth-quarter interceptions last week against the Rams, returning one 30 yards for a touchdown.
"He's a great athlete, I'm a great athlete," Peterson said. "It's going to be a battle of the best at their positions and I can't wait for it to happen. I'm going to give the fans a great show. I hope they've got their popcorn ready."
FOURTH-QUARTER HEROICS: Both teams have saved their best for the fourth quarter. In last week's 26-23 win over Miami, Matthew Stafford threw an 11-yard TD pass to Theo Riddick for the winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play. It was the third time this season Stafford has led the team to the winning score with less than two minutes to play.
Arizona has dominated opponents in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 91-34. The Cardinals outscored the Rams 21-0 in the final quarter last week. Twelve of the Cardinals' 19 takeaways have come in the fourth quarter, including three last week.
HOME COOKING: The Cardinals are 5-0 at home this season, with wins over San Diego, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia and St. Louis. They are 11-2 at home since Arians took over as coach last season. The Lions are 3-1 on the road with all four games coming against teams that currently have losing records.
FITZ IS ROLLING: Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald is showing he's not over the hill yet.
In the past three games, the 31-year-old receiver has 21 catches for 342 yards. Fitzgerald needs one touchdown catch and 8 yards receiving to become the 10th player in NFL history with 90 TD receptions and 12,000 yards receiving.
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