Arizona Cardinals (10-3, 9-4 ATS) at Detroit Lions (1-11-1, 8-5), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Cardinals Stats and Trends
The Cardinals are 5-1 ATS in their last six games against teams with losing records.
The Cardinals have won all seven of their road games by double-digit margins.
Arizona is 4-1 toward overs in their last five games.
Kyler Murray posted massive numbers in their pivotal matchup with the Rams in Week 14, completing 32/49 passes for 383 yards (7.8 YPA) and adding a team-high 7/61 rushing. He threw a costly INT in the red zone with the Cardinals going in for a potential two-score lead and added another pick on the second play of the second half, which effectively put Arizona in a two-score deficit. This isn’t a scary matchup but the Lions have allowed just one QB (Kirk Cousins) to reach 17+ FP in their last six games.
DeAndre Hopkins finished with a disappointing 5/54 receiving despite seeing a season-high 12 targets against a Jalen Ramsey-less Rams’ secondary last week. He also picked up a sprained knee on his final target of the game on an end-zone target, which will keep him out through the end of the regular season. A.J. Green will be elevated to the top perimeter spot and Antoine Wesley will see a bump in playing time too. Green paced their passing attack last week with 7/102 receiving on 10 targets. The Lions are giving up the 12th-fewest FPG (33.4) to WRs this season.
Christian Kirk hasn’t scored in his last six games after finding the end zone four times in his first seven games. He posted 12+ FP in two of his three games with Nuk on the sidelines in Weeks 9-11, and he owned a 21% target share. Jerry Jeudy posted 5/47 receiving last week, and Detroit is giving up 14.1 YPR to WRs this season.
Zach Ertz has reached double-digit FP twice in his first seven games with the Cardinals after posting 5/42 receiving on seven targets in Arizona’s loss to the Rams in Week 14. He did see a team-best 22% target share while Hopkins was out of the lineup in Weeks 9-11, but that also came with Colt McCoy at quarterback. The Lions gave up a combined 9/92/2 receiving to Albert Okwuegbunam and Noah Fant last week.
James Conner has been a beast with Chase Edmonds out of the lineup, averaging 22.2/114.8 scrimmage per game with eight TDs in five games. They could switch places this week, though, with Edmonds likely set to return from his ankle and Conner picking up an ankle injury on the final drive in their loss to the Rams. Conner averaged 11.8/44.8 rushing per game with eight TDs and just 5/34 receiving overall in eight games with Edmonds, while Chase averaged 13.2/79.8 scrimmage per game with only one TD playing next to Conner. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon just combined for 40/193/4 scrimmage against the Lions last week.
Brolley’s Lions Stats and Trends
Detroit is 4-1 ATS in its last five games.
The Lions are 8-3 toward unders in their last 11 games.
D’Andre Swift could return this week off of his shoulder injury suffered on Thanksgiving Day. He saw 17+ touches in six straight games before his injury and he’s reached 3+ catches in each of his 11 games this season. The Lions elevated Kutztown product, Craig Reynolds, from their practice squad to the active roster, and he didn’t disappoint with 11/83 rushing and 2/16 receiving on a backfield-best 46% snap share last week. He could remain involved after his impressive debut with Jamaal Williams (COVID), Godwin Igwebuike (fumble), and Jermar Jefferson (flu) losing steam heading into Week 15. The Cardinals are giving up 4.6 YPC and the seventh-most catches per game (6.2) to RBs.
Jared Goff had no chance to keep the momentum going off of Detroit’s first victory in Week 13 with an undermanned roster against Denver. He completed 24/39 passes for 215 yards (5.5 YPA), one TD, and one INT in a 28-point loss to the Broncos. Goff is on his first three-game run with double-digit FP this season. Andy Dalton posted 229/2 passing with four INTs against the Cardinals in Week 12.
T.J. Hockenson showed up on Detroit’s injury report with a hand injury last week, and he went from being a limited participant early in the week to being a non-participant by the end of it. He’s now out for the season because of the injury, which leaves Brock Wright as the top remaining TE. Arizona has limited TEs to the fourth-fewest FPG (8.3) this season.
Amon-Ra St. Brown has 4+ catches in eight of his last nine games, and he’s rung up 15+ FP and 12 targets in two straight games. He finished with 8/73 receiving on 12 targets against the Broncos, which gives him 18/159/1 receiving on 24 targets in Weeks 13-14. Josh Reynolds has posted 3+ catches and 50+ receiving yards in three straight games after posting 3/52 receiving on five targets against the Broncos. The Cardinals are giving up the 16th-fewest FPG (35.4) to WRs this season, but the Rams did have three WRs post 14+ FP against them last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.6 (4th)
Plays per game: 64.3 (15th)
Pass: 56.4% (25th) | Run: 43.6% (8th)
Pace: 28.8 (22nd)
Plays per game: 59.6 (28th)
Pass: 60.3% (18th) | Run: 39.7% (15th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Coming off a brutal home loss, the Cardinals are in a pristine bounceback spot on the road in Detroit and drawing a massive 13-point spread. As such large favorites, this game sets up well for Arizona to slow down and run the ball often – especially given their recent tendencies. Over the last eight weeks, the Cardinals are seventh in run rate (54.1%) and the eighth-slowest offense in seconds per play (30.4) when leading. If James Conner is healthy, I think we’ll see the Cardinals throw to build a lead early and salt the game away on the ground. The Lions are facing 28.7 RB carries per game over the last eight weeks, third-most.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The resiliency of the Cardinals will not be tested on a road trip into Wayne County. The date for that exam will take place on Christmas Day against Indianapolis. That stated, Week 15 will be important preparation since it will provide a glimpse into Kliff Kingsbury’s post-DeAndre Hopkins approach. Arizona already lost the services of Nuk for a three-game stretch prior to retaking the field in Week 13. However, that plan always included a guarantee of a Hopkins’ return following rest. Nuk is going under the knife to repair significant damage to his MCL. This offense cannot wait around for their star wideout to guide them during the playoffs. He might rejoin the team in late January. No guarantee.
Another clear-cut example of target rate overruling individual coverage, Amon-Ra St. Brown has been fed with 32% target shares in back-to-back weeks. When ARSB put the finishing touches on his 10/86/1 statement receiving line – including the game-winning 11-yard TD after the clock had expired, the takeaway was more toward it-was-only-a-matter-of-time than anything approaching let’s-get-ready-for-a-late-season-breakout. Minnesota’s coverage is one thing, that of Denver’s is an entirely different ballpark. St. Brown showcased more in last week’s loss than in Week 13’s victory. The Broncos used five different defensive backs in an attempt to contain ARSB. He generated an 8/73/0 line on 11 targets, including 2/18/0 on only three routes into Patrick Surtain II’s coverage.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Injuries will tell the story of this game for both teams. Cardinal coach Kliff Kingsbury announced early this week that his two best offensive weapons — RB James Conner and WR DeAndre Hopkins — would need MRIs for injuries suffered on Monday night.
News on Conner (ankle) was better than that on Hopkins (knee). Conner is being listed as day-to-day… but it was more ominous for Hopkins.
“Second opinions” are usually only sought after if the player doesn’t like the first one, and the second opinion confirmed the worst. With Hopkins out, it will be increased opportunity for AJ Green, but especially Christian Kirk, whose routes fell after Hopkins’ brief return to the lineup.
I'm told this am, it was expressed yesterday that #Cards WR DeAndre Hopkins (knee, MCL) was tentatively scheduled for surgery Friday with Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Current internal expectation is for Hopkins to miss "2-4 months." As of now, pre-surgery, they're not expecting Hop back.— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) December 16, 2021
Here’s Graham from Start/Sit on Kirk:
“With DeAndre Hopkins out for the season, the Cardinals are going to have to rely heavily on Kirk, AJ Green, Zach Ertz, and Rondale Moore to try and close out the NFC West division title. When Nuk missed Weeks 9-12 with a hamstring injury, Christian Kirk easily led the team in routes while Ertz (21), Moore (20), and Kirk (18) were all very close for the team lead in targets. Of course, that usage comes with the caveat that Kyler Murray missed the entirety of that Week 9-12 stretch, too.
Luckily, this is about as easy of a draw as possible for the Cardinals passing attack – especially where Kirk sees his targets. In Kyler’s 10 starts, Kirk is second on the team in deep targets (15+ air yards) with 20 while Nuk has 22. We’ll certainly see a few Kyler-to-Kirk shots here against a Lions secondary that is allowing the second-worst completion rate on deep balls (53.7%) and the second-most EPA (expected points added) on those plays (0.64). Kirk is a high-ceiling WR3 start this week.”
Rondale Moore will mix in, but the problem is his targets are basically like handoffs.
Rondale Moore got a boost up to 6.6 targets per game when DeAndre Hopkins was out earlier this season.— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) December 15, 2021
But almost impossible to have fantasy success with Rondale's 1.46 yard average depth of target. More than four yards shorter than second-worst (Cole Beasley, 5.52 yards).
If Conner is out or at all limited, it’ll be interesting to see if the Cardinals activate and play Chase Edmonds (ankle) a bunch. But given how hot Conner has been, I have no choice but to start him if he plays and hope for the best. If Conner doesn’t go, Eno Benjamin could be worth a prayer. Edmonds would be an RB2 if Conner doesn’t play.
“Since returning from injury in Week 13, Murray averages 25.1 FPG, including 8.5 rushing attempts and 12.0 rushing FPG over this span. Across his prior 5 injury-marred games, he averaged just 6.4 rushing attempts and 1.5 rushing FPG.
Vegas expects Arizona to score 30.25 points this week (most by +1.75) and win by 13. Detroit is giving up more production to RBs than QBs, but that’s mostly due to gamescript. They’re actually far more inefficient against the pass, ranking 2nd-worst in passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.53) and 4th-worst in opposing passer rating (101.3). Though, against RBs, they rank 17th-best by YPC allowed (4.28).
Typically the massive spread would be a significant concern, but Murray has historically smashed in similar environments. In his 7 career games the Cardinals have been favored by 7.0 or more points, he averages 26.7 FPG. In the 15 career games the Cardinals have had an implied point total over 27.0, he averages 25.2 FPG.
Even without WR DeAndre Hopkins, Murray is an easy top-3 option this week.”
Keep in mind Murray could be down C Rodney Hudson, who is on the COVID list, this week.
Here’s Jake Tribbey from DFS Early Look with a look at Swift:
“Should Swift play … in his full games ranks 1st in targets per game (6.7), 1st (tie) in FPG (18.5), and 2nd in XFP per game (18.9) among slate-eligible RBs.
And Arizona has been susceptible to pass catching RBs this season, allowing the 4th-most receptions (81) and the 9th-most receiving FPG (11.2) this season. As 14.0-point underdogs, the Lions will need to throw, and Swift should be one of the main beneficiaries given his position-leading 16% target share.”
If Swift doesn’t go, it’ll be fascinating to see their RB breakdown. Godwin Igwebuike struggled badly last week with a lost fumble and another near loss, while Kutztown product Craig Reynolds lived up to an early Sunday Adam Schefter tip by posting 11/83 rushing and 2/16 receiving on a 46% snap share. If Williams doesn’t go, Reynolds is my favorite of this group, but as a low-end RB2.
The Lions also will not have TE TJ Hockenson (thumb), who is out for the season following surgery. In Hockenson’s stead last week, TEs Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra combined for 11 targets but just 5/38 receiving.
No practice for Swift or Hockenson today. Doesn’t sound overly optimistic for either on Sunday.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) December 15, 2021