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Cardinals have all starters back on offense

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Sunday’s game at Detroit should be the first time the Arizona Cardinals have all their regular offensive starters available.

Running back Andre Ellington is expected to play after missing three weeks with a sprained knee. Left guard Mike Iupati (knee) returned last week. And right tackle Bobby Massie (suspension) debuted the week before that.

Wide receiver Michael Floyd has recovered from three dislocated fingers and is now fully integrated into the offense.

“It’s good to have a game under our belt with the starting linemen together now,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Getting Andre (Ellington) back obviously; he had a big first game and does a lot for this offense. Getting him back and just having that option. With three guys in there, it’s a handful defensively getting ready for those three completely different backs.”

The Cardinals appear loaded with skill players on offense. Ellington rejoins Chris Johnson and rookie David Johnson to give the Cardinals options at running back. Larry Fitzgerald leads the NFL with five touchdown receptions, and Floyd has completely recovered from three dislocated fingers suffered in training camp.

A healthy roster gives the Cardinals a good chance to bounce back from a disappointing loss last week to the Rams. They are wary, however, of the Lions. They also are coming off a disappointing loss, at Seattle, and have yet to win this season.

“This is a team that was a foot and a half away from beating Seattle at home,” Palmer said. “If anybody knows how hard that is, we do. They have one of the greatest receivers, a great quarterback, very good skill position players, the No. 1 defense in the league last year for a long time.

“There are a lot of good football players, a lot of talent. So in no way are we looking at this as anything other than a must-win for us against a good football team.”

Under head coach Bruce Arians, the Cardinals have lost consecutive games three times in two-plus seasons: once in 2013 and twice in 2014.

They say they are viewing this week’s game as a test of their mettle.

“When your veterans come in Wednesday to go to work, your young guys will follow them,” Arians said. “This is a time for your leadership to stand up, and if you have really good leadership, you won’t lose two in a row.”

SERIES HISTORY: 64th regular-season meeting. Lions lead series, 31-27-5, but the Cardinals have won the last six and 11 of the last 14. These teams know each other as well two teams not in the same division can. This will be the 14th time in the last 18 years they have played. The Lions visited Arizona the past three years, and this will be the Cardinals’ first trip to Detroit since 2009.

GAME PLAN

Defensively, the Cardinals must do whatever they can to put pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford has five touchdown passes and five interceptions this season. The Cardinals have intercepted seven passes, but have had trouble getting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Offensively, the Cardinals’ line needs to play better than it did a week ago. Quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked four times, and the line, along with tight ends and running backs, did a poor job of picking up blitzes and handling stunts. Running back Andre Ellington is expected to play after missing three games with a sprained knee. Incorporating him back into the lineup will be a process, because Chris Johnson has filled in capably. Ellington, however, has unique skills, especially as a receiver. He’s dangerous in the open field once he has the ball.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Cardinals LT Jared Veldheer vs. Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah.

Veldheer is coming off a couple of rough outings. Those are uncharacteristic of Veldheer, who usually plays at a Pro Bowl level. Ansah is an excellent pass rusher.

–Cardinals DE Calais Campbell vs. Lions LG left guard Manny Ramirez.

Campbell was dominant last week against the Rams. His run defense has improved greatly over the last two seasons, and he’s always been an effective pass rusher.


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