December 19, 2014
Normally, a Cardinals-Lions game is nothing to get excited about. The franchises rank 1-2 in losses in NFL history.
That’s no way for Fox TV to promote the matchup Sunday, but this is: These teams have reached a new level on offense and figure to finish the season ranked in the top 10.
The Cardinals finished last in offense in 2012, which is why coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer were brought on board. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald already has half as many touchdowns (two) as he had last season (four). He’ll be a top-10 wideout again in Arians’ system.
But there’s more to the Cardinals’ passing game. Palmer talked up Andre Roberts in the preseason, and he responded Sunday with eight catches for 97 yards. Fitzgerald also had eight catches (80 yards), and Michael Floyd had four for 82 yards.
Fitzgerald and Floyd figure to lead the way in touchdowns because of their size advantage, but all three receivers are worth owning.
Considering how often the Cardinals are going to throw, Palmer is a fine backup. Keep an eye on running back Rashard Mendenhall, who carried 16 times for 60 yards. Not a starter, but his involvement makes him worth owning.
The Lions actually finished third in offense last season, but that was on the strength of their second-ranked passing game (their running game ranked 23rd). With running back Reggie Bush on board, the Lions will be more balanced, and everyone will benefit.
Despite thumb and groin injuries, Bush had 191 rushing/receiving yards Sunday, taking advantage of the extra attention the Vikings paid to wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Bush is a must-start, and running mate Joique Bell became a must-own with 11 touches and two touchdowns. Mikel Leshoure, the team’s leading rusher last season, was healthy but inactive.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford will have a big bounce-back season and is a weekly starter. Wide receiver Nate Burleson also should be considered in deeper leagues playing opposite Johnson. He was second to Johnson with six catches for 78 yards.
WR Julian Edelman, Patriots: Kenbrell Thompkins didn’t look ready for prime time, and Danny Amendola is hurt. Say hello to Tom Brady’s No. 1 receiver.
WR Emanuel Sanders, Steelers: With their running game in shambles, the Steelers will throw, and Sanders had a whopping 12 targets Sunday.
WR Sidney Rice, Seahawks: Russell Wilson throws for 320 yards, and only 35 went to Rice. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin appear to have passed him.
WR James Jones, Packers: The NFL’s leader in touchdown catches last season caught zero passes and was targeted twice Sunday.