Sunday's battle between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals will be won on the outside. In this out-of-nowhere clash for NFC supremacy, the most intriguing matchups happen when the Lions have the ball.
Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate now comprise the NFL's most dangerous 1-2 punch at wide receiver (sorry, Julio and Roddy). And they will face their stiffest competition of the season: Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie with the Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu) roaming around in the middle of the field.
Peterson is so fun to watch week after week because he actually tracks the opposition's best player, unlike most teams that keep cornerbacks on sides or play zone coverage primarily. Peterson knows that he'll line up against Megatron, who looks fully in form after healing his ankle injury for four weeks.
"He's by far the most dynamic and athletic receiver in the league. ... We'll have our hands full," Peterson told NFL Media's Adam Schein on SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio.
Johnson torched Peterson over the last two seasons, totaling 16 catches, 237 yards and two touchdowns. It's worth noting, however, that the Cardinals won both games. Peterson's ability to match up with the best receivers allows defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to get creative; Arizona blitzes more than any team in the league.
The matchup looks especially fun this week because Peterson is playing himself again. After a rough start to the year, Peterson shut down Dez Bryant in Week 9, then picked off two passes last week against St. Louis.
"I was disappointed in (my) first half of the season; I believe I wasn't playing to my standards. I was fighting through injuries," Peterson told Schein. "Now that I'm 100 percent, I've turned the corner, and I'm ready to roll from here on out."
Peterson, never lacking for confidence, repeated his oft-repeated claim that he's the best cornerback in the league. He'll need to play like it Sunday.
This Cardinals team has overcome injuries all season, and they need their defense to carry them more than ever with Carson Palmer out for the season. If Peterson gets the better of Megatron Sunday, Bowles and the wild Cardinals' blitzes should take care of the rest.
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