Lions Prep For Arizona Cardinals

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- This always used to be a matchup of NFL bottom-feeders. The Detroit Lions are on the rise, though.
They come to Arizona with a 6-2 record, an example of what the Cardinals (3-5) believe they ought to be. A victory over Arizona on Sunday would give the Lions their best start since 1993.
"You can feel the confidence growing," Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna said. "You can feel guys who were on the fringe, wondering how real it was, they're buying in. They're jumping in. Winning is always fun."
The Lions come in on a three-game winning streak. Arizona has lost three in a row since quarterback Matt Leinart went down for the season with a broken collarbone. Replacement Kurt Warner is playing with a torn ligament in his left (non-throwing) elbow.
Warner insists the injury isn't affecting his play, but he was 10-for-30 for 172 yards with two interceptions in last week's 17-10 loss at Tampa Bay.
"Certainly he has some pain with that if he gets bumped or gets tweaked," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "But Kurt's playing. He's not ever complained about it. He made some fantastic throws in the game, there's no question about that."
Kitna and Warner are good friends and talk every week.
"I don't know how he's doing it," Kitna said, "but he's a warrior. I know he's going to get out there. He's going to get out there and he's never going to use anything as an excuse."
Warner was as upset with last week's loss as he's been about any in his career, mainly because of how poorly the offense performed. Arizona had 195 yards, 23 on the ground.
Unlike the Cardinals, the Lions are simply "making big plays when they need to," Warner said. "
"We all know that we've played well throughout most of the season," Warner said, "but the difference between 6-2 and 3-5 is finding that way, making that play that makes the difference. That's what we have to do."
A year ago, Detroit came to Arizona and lost 17-10 en route to a 3-13 season. With that backdrop, Lions coach Rod Marinelli is not getting carried away by the Lions' record. Neither are the oddsmakers, who have made the Cardinals a 1-point favorite.
"I think we're a work in progress, to be honest with you," Marinelli said. "We're just learning how to play and trying to be consistent. Guys are just working one snap at a time, just day by day."
The Lions are coming off a 44-7 rout of Denver. Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers had five tackles, three solo, and 2 1/2 sacks. Rogers knocked quarterback Jay Cutler out of the game with a second-quarter sack.
"I don't want to sound like just a recorded answer, but it was just another game," defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "And it was great, it really was. It was awesome and it was a big boost for our guys, but that was Sunday."
The Lions haven't won four in a row since 1999.
The 35-year-old Kitna has completed a career-high 67 percent of his passes, tied for fourth in the NFL. He's seventh in completions (170) and 10th in yards (2,000). Kitna credits offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who was in St. Louis when Warner was a league and Super Bowl MVP.
"I feel like coach Martz has unleashed the quarterback I've always been in my own mind and heart," Kitna said, "and that's an aggressive quarterback who is smart. For my whole career, I've been told I need to be less aggressive, or be more cautious and things like that."
The Cardinals, at home for the first time since Oct. 14, should have the services of two starters who have been sidelined with injuries, inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and right tackle Levi Brown. Both practiced all week.
Whisenhunt, in his first season of trying to resurrect the long-downtrodden Arizona fortunes, has downplayed the team's ugly loss at Tampa all week. He refused to even talk about the possibility the Cardinals could be sinking into one of their trademark funks.
"I'm not even thinking about that," he said.
A year ago, Arizona lost eight straight en route to a 5-11 year that resulted in the firing of coach Dennis Green. This year, Arizona is 2-1 at home, including a victory over Pittsburgh. The Cardinals play five of their last eight in Glendale. It starts Sunday against a team whose success the Cardinals believe they should have matched.
"We can't really deal with where we ought to be," wide receiver Bryant Johnson said. "We have to deal with the reality of where we are."
That's 3-5, and as bad as it seems, Arizona is just one game behind first-place Seattle in a division becoming known as the "NFL Worst."

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