Arizona Cardinals (2-6) at Detroit Lions (3-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Tim Ryan
SERIES: 57th meeting in a series that dates to 1930. The Lions hold a 30-21-5 edge over the Cardinals, but the Cardinals have won five of seven and had been victorious in five in a row -- by 3, 2, 4, 7 and 3 points -- before dropping the 2003 opener at Ford Field. One memorable battle from the Cardinals' perspective was Dec. 8, 2002, when Bill Gramatica kicked two field goals in the closing 5:30 of the fourth quarter and then won the game 23-20 with a 42-yarder in overtime. But last season, Detroit won 26-12 as rookie running back Kevin Jones rushed for 196 yards and Jason Hanson booted four field goals at Ford Field on Dec. 5.
*2005 RANKINGS: Cardinals: offense 15th (31st rush, 4th pass); defense 19th (22nd rush, 15th pass). Lions: offense 28th (26th rush, 25th pass); defense 10th (16th rush, 10th pass)
PREDICTION: Lions 23-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: Which team can best establish its running game? Both have been feeble in large part due to poor offensive line play. The Lions hope to get run-stopping DT Shaun Rogers back, which will only make life more difficult for Cardinals RB Marcel Shipp. Detroit is without CB Dre Bly, but if Arizona QB Kurt Warner is stuck in consistent long passing situations, the Lions still have plenty of playmakers in their secondary who can turn the game around. The Cardinals have serious depth issues along their defensive line, which the Lions will attempt to exploit with RB Kevin Jones. And even though Detroit's offensive line has struggled in run and pass blocking, Arizona's pass rushing threat took a serious hit when DE Bertrand Berry was injured last Sunday.
FAST FACTS: Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald needs seven receptions to pass his rookie total of 58. ... Are 2-0 when they win the turnover margin and 0-6 when they lose it. Lions: Coach Steve Mariucci is 6-0 against Cardinals coach Dennis Green. ... WR Scottie Vines has tied or led the team in receptions the past three games.
--RB Marcel Shipp has gone 26 games without scoring, a streak that dates to 2003. He's touched the ball from scrimmage 421 times in that span. It's not all Shipp's fault. The offensive line hasn't played well, and he's rarely had room to run.
--K Neil Rackers has made 26 straight field goals, a team record, this year, so it's no wonder the team was eager to re-sign him. Rackers signed a four-year contract extension Monday that will pay him an additional $6.75 million. He received $2.25 million in guaranteed money and he'll make a salary of $1.8 million in 2006.
--QB Kurt Warner will start his second straight game, and his fifth overall for the Cardinals, Sunday in Detroit. Warner was intercepted three times last week in his first start after missing four games with a torn groin. He made some decent throws, too, but he'll be hindered by injuries at receiver.
--DE Bertrand Berry will miss at least five weeks, and likely the rest of the season, after suffering a torn pectoral muscle last week. He won't need surgery and he hopes to make a quick recovery. The team isn't putting him on injured reserve, just in case Berry is a fast healer.
--DE Antonio Smith, a fifth-round draft pick in 2004, probably will start his first NFL game Sunday, replacing Berry. It's a huge drop-off in talent, and veteran K-Ral Truluck, signed this week, is likely to play in passing situations.
--DT Shaun Rogers, who missed two weeks of practice and two games with a knee injury, is likely to start Sunday in the Lions' game against Arizona. Although he still has some discomfort in the knee, Rogers worked in virtually all phases of the defense this week.
--WR Roy Williams took 40-50 percent of the reps in practice as the Lions wound down preparations for their game Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Williams missed three full games and got only three plays in the loss at Minnesota, but it appears he will play Sunday. It is uncertain if he will be able to go the distance.
--WR Charles Rogers had a better week of practice and is expected to play for the first time since sitting out a four-game drug suspension. Rogers wasn't even on the travel squad after a poor week of work last week but with his stepped up preparations and the Lions injury problems at wide receiver, he might start at split end.
--QB Joey Harrington got most of the reps with the Lions first offense Wednesday and Thursday, and is expected to get the starting assignment Sunday against Arizona. Harrington struggled early in the season, lost the starting job to Jeff Garcia but will get his second consecutive start because of injuries to Garcia.
--WR Mike Williams is not likely to play in the Lions' game Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals because of a mid-foot sprain on his right foot. Williams suffered the injury last Sunday at Minnesota and finished the game but has had the foot in a boot this week, unable to practice.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The health of the team suffered another blow in Thursday's practice when receiver Bryant Johnson suffered a sprained shoulder while trying to catch a pass.
Johnson was elevated to the No. 2 receiver slot last week because of Anquan Boldin's bruised knee. Johnson is listed as questionable for Sunday's game in Detroit, and if he can't play, the Cardinals are in big trouble.
Not that Johnson has proven himself worth of being a first-round pick, which he was in 2003. But without him, the team has one experienced receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, who is only in his second year.
Moving up to take Johnson's spot would be Reggie Newhouse, who was signed last week after being cut at the end of training camp, or LeRon McCoy, a seventh-round pick this year.
Most likely it would be Newhouse, who is much more polished than McCoy. Newhouse doesn't have great speed, but he won't make many mistakes and he has decent hands. McCoy is the fastest player on the team but he drops too many passes.
It's also possible that Johnson could play Sunday.
Boldin is out at least another week. He'll have an MRI Monday to see how the injury has healed. If doctors are satisfied, he could play the following week in St. Louis.
There is no question this week about the Lions' starting quarterback: Joey Harrington will get the job Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals in the game at Ford Field.
The only question is whether erstwhile starter Jeff Garcia will be healthy enough to fill the backup role or whether he'll be wearing a ball cap as the No. 3 quarterback.
The quarterback position has been the subject of turmoil and controversy since the Lions got off to a stumbling start, with Harrington starting the first five games, Garcia recovering from a broken leg and sprained ankle to start the next two games, and Harrington returning to the starting job for the eighth game when Garcia was sidelined by additional injuries to his leg.
Harrington is 2-4 as the starter, Garcia is 1-1. And the Lions are still struggling to make a run at the Chicago Bears in the NFC North before it's entirely too late.
If there is any encouraging sign for the Lions as the go into the second half of the season, it is the fact that several of their injured top-line players - and one suspended player - are ready to return to action.
Among those expected back this week are Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, wide receiver Roy Williams and wide receiver Charles Rogers, who missed four games on a drug suspension and a fifth game because coaches felt he wasn't adequately prepared after his first week back in practice.
In addition, Pro Bowl cornerback Dre' Bly began practicing this week with a cast on his right wrist and might be ready to play against Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day.
Meanwhile, Harrington will try to keep the Lions in the race with a win against Arizona. He struggled in the first half of the season, completing only 54.5 percent of his passes with five touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 57.5.
Rookie Dan Orlovsky, a fifth-round draft pick from Connecticut, will be the backup if Garcia isn't able to play, but Garcia wasn't eliminating himself from contention Thursday.
"It's feeling better each day," he said. "I can feel improvement, especially over the way I felt last week. I'm doing a lot more this week than I did last week, so I think if I can continue in that sort of position, I'll be ready to be the No. 2 guy on Sunday."
Gameday: Arizona (2-6) at Detroit (3-5)
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