Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE DYE  |  Last updated 9/13/13
A breakout debut for Reggie Bush, another failure to "complete the process" by Calvin Johnson, a 100,000 fine and more controversy for Ndamukong Suh. At least the Detroit Lions aren't boring. The Lions head out to Arizona this week with a chance for payback against the Cardinals after last year's embarrassment. Here are five storylines to follow for Sunday's game: 1. ROAD WOES The Lions have provided their share of road futility to the record books. They better be prepared to have those numbers thrown in their faces a lot this season. It starts here because the Lions haven't won in Arizona since 1993. Not a large sample size - a six-game losing streak - but it does include a hideous 38-10 defeat last season when Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns. But wait, it gets better, much better (or worse, as the case may be). The Lions go to Washington D.C. next week, where they have never won. They're 0-21 on the road against the Redskins (18 regular season, three playoff). The most recent was a 34-3 pounding in 2007. Two weeks after that, the Lions head to Green Bay. This streak gets talked about annually. The Lions have lost 22 straight (21 regular season, one playoff) on the road to the Packers. Nineteen of them have come in Green Bay, three in Milwaukee. The Lions' last road victory in the series was in December 1991, less than five months after Detroit's rookie offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle was born. In Week 10, the Lions go to Chicago. They actually won there in 2007. So it's not quite so bad. Just a five-game losing streak in the Windy City. A week later, it's on to Pittsburgh, where they haven't won since 1955, two years before Detroit's last championship season. Another small sample, but it's still an eight-game losing streak in the Steel City since a tie in 1999. And, finally, in the season finale the Lions will go to Minnesota. Sure, they won there in 2011, but that was after 13 straight losses. They're now 1-14 in the last 15 trips to face the Vikings. On the bright side, the Lions won their last visit against the other two road opponents this year, beating Cleveland in 2005 and Philadelphia last season. 2. SLAY VS. FITZ Rookie cornerback Darius Slay got benched in the fourth quarter of last week's opener against Minnesota after he bit on a double move and gave up a deep pass. Rashean Mathis, a 10-year NFL veteran, came on to help finish off the Vikings, but coach Jim Schwartz insists that Slay is still the starter. Slay expects the Cardinals to try to get their top receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, in a match-up against him. "Hall of Famer, put him on the rookie," Slay said. "Make it easier on him, make it hard on me. My mind set is that it's coming so I'm prepared for it. I can handle anybody." Schwartz described going to Mathis late as a "call to the bullpen." "What better person to put a fire out than a very experienced player like Rashean Mathis," Schwartz said. Mathis, who has started 129 of his 138 games in the league, said of the reliever's role: "I'm not used to it. But I am a veteran so I can adjust. It was nothing for me to go in and do, but you have to have a different mindset and you have to have your mind prepared." The talented rookie might need the savvy veteran to come to the rescue again this week, especially with Fitzgerald on the other side. 3. HONEY BADGER Arizona took a chance on rookie Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu in the third round of the NFL Draft, and it's paying off. Mathieu's hustle saved a touchdown last week when he came from out of nowhere to force a fumble with a strip from behind near the goal line. Many teams wouldn't touch Mathieu after he was kicked off LSU's team last year for failing drug tests. "We were convinced after meeting with him so many times, that this was a kid that just wanted a chance," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "First one in the building, last one to leave, always asking questions, taking notes, lifting weights, practicing nonstop, gets mad when you take him out. He is a dream to coach. Off the field, we have good veteran leadership who like this kid. They are not going to let him fail." Nate Burleson, an 11-year veteran who often lines up in the slot for the Lions, expects to be matched up against Mathieu quite a bit. "Im a big fan of the Honey Badger, Im not going to lie to you," Burleson said. "Were going to see Old Man vs. Young Man. Hes an X factor. He was like that in college. I know if hes not trying to make the tackle, hes going to definitely try to get the ball out. Ive got to be aware of that as a receiver and protect the ball all game." 4. TRIPLE-THREAT PETERSON Patrick Peterson is a three-way talent for the Cardinals. He's considered one of the top cornerbacks in the game, a major threat on punt returns and it appears he could be used more often on offense as a receiver, too. His biggest duty in this one will be trying to contain the Lions' Calvin Johnson, who had 10 catches for 121 yards but no touchdowns last year against Peterson and the Cardinals. "It brings out the best in competitors when you get to go against the best, especially when we get one-on-one coverage," Johnson, who is 6-foot-5, 236 pounds said of facing the 6-1, 219-pound Peterson. "He's big, he's fast, he's got ball skills. He's almost like a big receiver but he's a DB. He's a heck of a player." Peterson is great, Johnson is better. 5. ROOKIE REBOUND Lions rookie Sam Martin admitted during the preseason that his nerves had gotten the best of him at one point and that he needed to take a deep breath and slow down. It appeared that over-excitement was a factor again last week when he dropped a snap as the holder to botch a field-goal attempt early in the game. He struggled on some punts, too, but eventually settled down and helped seal the victory by forcing the Vikings to start at their 1-yard line in the closing minutes. The pressure will be on the fifth-round pick in this one with Peterson on the other end. Peterson was held to one punt return for 1 yard last week in a 27-24 loss to St. Louis, but he can bust one at any moment. "If we are backed up, (Martin's) hang time and direction is extremely important in the coverage aspect," Schwartz said. "A player like Patrick Peterson, you can't cover the whole width of the field. You have to narrow the field (with directional punts). Hang time allows those guys to get down there and be in position to get them tackled." Breath, kid, breath. PICK: ARIZONA 1 12
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