GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Detroit Lions (7-2) and Arizona Cardinals (8-1) face off in a critical NFC matchup with major playoff and divisional race implications for both. Here are four things to watch Sunday for the Lions:
1. Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate vs. Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie: This could be one of the marquee offense vs. defense matchups in the NFL this season. It wouldn't be surprising to see mixing-and-matching going on with who handles who at different times, especially from Arizona's end. Johnson had six catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns last season and 10 catches for 121 yards in 2012. What does this mean? Likely that Peterson should get help, and mixing things up on Detroit could be helpful. Johnson has also been able to wiggle loose for at least one deep play in the past two games against the Cardinals, including a 72-yarder last season (a slant that was mostly yards after catch) and a 30-yarder in 2012. Meanwhile, Golden Tate is coming off three straight 100-yard games -- a career first for him -- and he has never gone over 100 yards against Arizona.
2. Drew Stanton: The Lions know all about their former quarterback, who has been thrust into the starting role now that Carson Palmer is out for the season. Prior to his four games this season, the last time Stanton played was in 2010 for the Lions, when he played in six games, completing 69 of 119 passes for 780 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions as a backup to one of his close friends, Matthew Stafford. Stanton will likely take deep shots, so it'll be interesting to see how well Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis hold up in coverage against two strong receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd along with the rookie, John Brown.
3.How does Travis Swanson do: The Cardinals aren't getting a lot of sacks this season -- just 3.7 percent of opposing quarterback dropbacks have resulted in sacks -- but they are bringing a lot of pressure. Arizona has blitzed quarterbacks 41.1 percent of the time this season, so depending how much the Lions will have to shade help to the rookie Swanson could dictate the rest of their pass blocking scheme. The Lions have also been struggling with pass protection all season, having given up 27 sacks this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, when Stafford has been pressured this year, he has completed 18 of 52 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Understand that's a tough stat, though, because pressure can be subjective.
4. Does Joique Bell emerge? If Reggie Bush doesn't play -- he hasn't practiced all week -- this could be a heavy workload for Bell even if the Lions give more work to Theo Riddick as well. Bell looked the part of a lead rusher last Sunday against Miami, gaining a season-best 4.4 yards per carry (10 rushes, 44 yards) and caught two passes for the fourth straight game (two catches, 37 yards). Considering Arizona's third-ranked run defense (78.56 yards per game), if the Lions can get ground production from Bell, it could really open things up for Johnson and Tate on the outside.