A pair of teams coming off losing seasons will have a chance to start the 2019 season with a win when the Arizona Cardinals host the Detroit Lions in Week 1. The game is set to start at 4:25 EST on Sunday, September 8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Fans in select markets can watch the game on Fox.
The powers that be list the Lions as 2.5-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 47 points. Click here to check out previews and betting odds of all of this week’s NFL games.
Lions head coach Matt Patricia will be happy to hit the reset button after last year’s 6-10 campaign. Patricia struggled to implement what worked for him as the defensive coordinator in New England for all those years. Despite a few impressive wins, the Lions failed to develop much consistency on either side of the ball.
While the few wins over quality opponents the Lions earned last season creates some hope for 2019, Detroit is starting out at the bottom of the totem pole in the NFC North. The Lions share a division with three teams that all think they have a chance to reach the Super Bowl this season. That means Detroit must get off to a fast start to show the rest of the division that they shouldn’t be overlooked. It starts Week 1 with a trip to Arizona.
As for the Cardinals, they are essentially starting over from scratch for the second straight year. Steve Wilkes lasted just one year as the head coach in Arizona after the Cardinals went 3-13 in 2018. Two of those three wins came against the 49ers, who were probably the second-worst team in the NFL.
After firing Wilkes, the Cardinals took a big risk by hiring former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The team believes Kingsbury’s innovative offense can work in the NFL and Kingsbury believes that top overall pick Kyler Murray is the perfect quarterback to run his system. It was certainly a high risk-high reward hire by the Cardinals. If nothing else, it will make them one of the most fascinating teams to watch in the NFL early in the season.
I’m a little surprised that this game isn’t a straight-up PK. It’s hard to buy the Lions as a favorite, much less a road favorite, coming off a 6-10 season a year ago. I understand that the Cardinals were terrible last year, but things are obviously different with a new head coach. Between Kingsbury and Murray, I think Arizona has the element of surprise working in their favor. To me, that’s enough to take a chance on a home underdog and lean toward the Cardinals.
The Lions had a lot of issues last season, and I’m not sure they’ve sorted them out during the offseason. It starts with the offensive line, which allowed Matthew Stafford to get sacked 40 times in 2018. The constant pressure on him was a big reason why he had arguably the worst season of his career. If the Lions can fix their problems at the line of scrimmage, I’m intrigued by the skill players they have. But I don’t know if the Detroit offensive line will be significantly better than it was a season ago.
The Cardinals, of course, have as many questions about their defense as they do about their offense after last season. But they still have Chandler Jones, who is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, and they added Terrell Suggs during the offseason. If they can get the Lions into passing downs, Jones and Suggs will have a great opportunity to take advantage of Detroit’s offensive line and get after Stafford.
On the other side of the ball, I’m as skeptical as anyone about the Arizona offense. Murray is athletic and has great arm talent, but he’s undersized and only spent one full season as a starter in college. That being said, he has David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald around him. They are two of the best players in the NFL at their respective positions. The Cardinals have also made an effort to improve their offensive line, which was arguably their biggest problem last season.
In fairness, I like Detroit’s defensive line a lot. I think they’ll give a lot of teams trouble this season. Even if the Arizona offensive line has improved, the Lions have a chance to win in the trenches. That should help offset some of the concerns about the rest of the defense. But Murray’s athleticism and improvisational skills can’t be overlooked. Even if Murray can create one or two big plays out of nothing, it could end up making a big difference.
All things considered, this game feels like a toss-up because I think both teams could look considerably different than they did last year. With the home team being the underdog, I’m going to lean that way. I’ll give Kingsbury the benefit of the doubt and side with the Cardinals in Week 1.