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Game Preview: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers

Game Details

  • Match-up: Detroit Lions (1-0) vs. Carolina Panthers (1-0)
  • Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
  • Date: September 14, 2014
  • Time: 1:00 PM EST
  • TV: FOX

The Detroit Lions visit the Carolina Panthers this Sunday, in a match of two week-one winners.  Detroit comprehensively whipped the hapless New York Giants, while Carolina held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scoreless through three quarters, and turned away a lat Buccaneers’ surge to win 20-14.  This game is one of the premier NFL contests in week 2, and along with the Atlanta Falcons game in Cincinnati against the Bengals, leads a strong early slate of games.

Key Match-up

Detroit Passing Offense vs. Carolina Passing Defense.  Quarterback Mathew Stafford made a great impression opening week.  He appears to have lost weight, and more importantly, appeared to have matured in how he played the position.  Stafford’s arm has never been questioned, but his decisions have.  Last Sunday he used his arms, legs, and most importantly, his brain to beat the New York Giants.  I stated at the time that his performance reminded me of vintage Brett Favre, when Favre was winning MVP awards.  While certainly hyperbolic, it still rings true.

That said, we have certainly seen terrific individual games from Stafford before, and the Giants are hardly anyone’s Super Bowl favorites.  Meanwhile, the Panthers defense was one of the very best in the league in 2013.  While some questioned whether it could maintain that form this season, the Panthers looked very strong in week 1 against Tampa Bay.  The Buccaneers’ quarterback, Josh McCown, was unable to accomplish much of anything until the fourth quarter, when the game was seemingly beyond reach.  On the whole, the Panthers gave up just 264 yards.  The challenge is more difficult this week, and I do believe questions remain concerning whether this team can keep up with last year’s group.  If indications from week one hold, Stafford could be in for a long day.

Players to Watch

Stafford and his favorite target, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, are always players to watch for the Lions.  More interesting will be the performance of running back Reggie Bush.  Bush had a poor outing on the ground in week one, carrying nine times for just 15 yards (1.7 yards per carry).  He was, however, able to catch 6 passes on 6 targets for another 49 yards.  Against the more substantial Panthers front 7, Bush and his backfield mates may again struggle to find traction on the ground.  If that proves true, pressure will mount on Stafford to make plays in order for the Lions to put up points.  One way to alleviate that pressure using the passing game is to find Bush with quick, high percentage passes and hope he makes plays.  That is easier said than done when dealing with the Panthers’ superb linebackers, but may just be required for the Lions to wins.

For Carolina, all eyes will be on quarterback Cam Newton, who missed the first week of the season with a rib injury.  His backup, Derrick Anderson, performed extremely well on the road against a stout Buccaneers defense in the opening game, a great sign for the Panthers as Newton is one of the most-often hit quarterbacks in the league.   However, Newton has been leading this offense for three years, and brings an extra facet to every game with his ability to run.  The Panthers are best with him in the game and playing well.  How he plays with nagging rib problems will go far in determining the outcome of this game.

Prediction

As noted, I am very excited for this game.  Both teams played well in week 1, and I expect both to play well again.  I do believe the game will be low-scoring, but that should not be mistaken for poor football.  There is a difference between two incompetent teams failing to find the end zone, and two competent ones keeping each other from getting there.  As of this writing, the sharps like Carolina in this one, essentially on the basis of home-field advantage.  I agree, and think that Carolina has enough to hold off the Lions at home.  Carolina 20, Detroit 17.