Behind enemy lines: Cardinals-Lions preview with Lions Wire

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The Arizona Cardinals take on the one-win Detroit Lions Sunday afternoon hoping to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2015 and beat them for the first time since that same year.

They face each other for the fifth consecutive season and for the ninth time in the last 10.

Both teams are on different trajectories currently, but the Lions have been tough this season despite the lack of wins.

To find out more about the Cardinals’ Week 15 opponent, Lions Wire managing editor Jeff Risdon answered a few questions to give us some insight to the team he covers.

Listen to the latest from Cards Wire’s Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

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Dan Campbell

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

How has the Dan Campbell experience been? Are the Lions making the progress they had hoped in Year 1? Where has he found success and where has he struggled?

Campbell has been very good in some aspects but lacking in others. In terms of player development and having a unified, tight locker room, Campbell and his staff have been fantastic. Many of the assistants he brought in, guys like DBs coach Aubrey Pleasant, RB coach Duce Staley and DC Aaron Glenn, have been needed breaths of fresh air.

As a strategist and in-game playcaller, Campbell has a long way to go. He’s made some crucial mistakes and poor decisions.

Jared Goff

What do you make of Jared Goff’s play this season? Is he part of the future in Detroit?

By and large, Goff has been a disappointment. He has played better of late, after the bye week and after he missed a game with an injury. Goff just isn’t aggressive enough or composed enough. He hasn’t tried to attack down the field often. His propensity for creating pressure on himself is incredibly frustrating. There are times when you’re reminded he was once a pretty good starter for the Rams, but more times where you’re reminded why the Rams couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.

Bright spots, disappointments

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Who have been the bright spots for the Lions this season? Have any players disappointed or underwhelmed?

The run game has been great. The Lions haven’t had a top-10 rushing attack since Barry Sanders was still playing, but this Detroit run offense is a borderline top-5 run game. The offensive line, keyed by rookie RT Penei Sewell and RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai, is great at establishing the run. They’ll be diminished this week with LG Jonah Jackson (he’s solid) iffy and both D’Andre Swift (great receiver, below-average runner) and Jamaal Williams (great power runner) out.

There have been so many injuries, and it’s forced a lot of guys much higher on the depth chart than they need to be. A couple who are still around have fared well: UDFA rookie TE Brock Wright and C Evan Brown, who has played well filling in for Pro Bowler Frank Ragnow. The safety position has been a disaster, especially with Tracy Walker out (COVID-19). The pass rush is underwhelming outside of Charles Harris, who has nicely salvaged his career.

Advantageous matchups

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Are there any areas where you believe the Lions have an advantage over the Cardinals? Why?

To be blunt, no. There is no reason to expect the Lions to have any advantage, not with the roster in the injury-ravaged and COVID-impacted state it’s in.

Prediction

What will be the final score and how will it go down?

I suspect this week’s Lions game will play out like last week’s trip to Denver. The Lions played well early, showed some innovation and played the first half basically even. Then the Cardinals, like the Broncos last week, will figure out how to attack on both sides of the ball and the Lions just won’t be able to match the talent or skill. Cardinals 33, Lions 13

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