It’s been a crazy week for the NFL, with Ray Rice getting suspended indefinitely after the TMZ leaked video of his domestic violence, and also the horrible news on Adrian Peterson for being indicted for child abuse. Lost in all of this is a man who will be playing Sunday versus the Lions. Greg Hardy was charged with domestic violence and found guilty back in July, but has received no punishment from the Panthers or the NFL. It goes to show that the league really has no grip on their domestic violence policy.
But let’s focus more on real football and less on the NFL and it’s policies.
The Lions will have their work cut out for them with the Carolina Panthers, who were one of the most dominant teams in the NFL towards the end of last year, finishing 11-1 in their final 12 games.
The big question surrounding the Carolina Panthers is whether their star quarterback Cam Newton will be able to suit up for their home opener on Sunday. Right now it looks like he’ll be ready to go against the Detroit Lions, as he’s been a full participant in practice so far this week. Apparently, he’s really focused on “Donkey Kong” Suh and his former teammate, Nick Fairley.
Against the Buccaneers last week the Panthers started backup QB Derek Anderson who did a solid job of filling in for Newton. He threw for a total of 230 yards on 34 attempts for two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Anderson and the Panthers’ offense was able to attack Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense up the seams with tight end Greg Olsen and receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The Lions will likely face the same gameplan, so their linebackers and safeties better be prepared.
Stafford will be facing possibly the best front seven in the NFL led by the Panthers’ quarterback on defense, Luke Kuechly. He was ranked #15 by his peers on NFL Network’s top 100 player countdown and was fourth in the NFL with 156 tackles last year.
While the Panthers’ strong point is their front seven on defense, their secondary would be considered their weak point. They have three new faces in their secondary with safeties Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper, and cornerback Antoine Cason. Their offensive line is also considered suspect after losing their blindside protector Jordan Gross.
QB Cam Newton – Ribs – Probable for Sunday’s game
RB DeAngelo Williams – Thigh – Questionable
OT Garry Williams – Hip – Questionable
LB Jason Williams – Thigh – Questionable
Carolina Panthers favored by 3.5 points
Keys to Winning
The key to winning this game for the Lions will be protecting Stafford and getting the ball out quick to torch the Panthers’ secondary.
Last week the Lions scored plenty of points against the Giants, but they also squandered opportunities and settled for a couple of field goals. With Cam Newton under center, the Lions cannot afford to keep the Panthers hanging around like they did with the Giants in the first half.
On defense the Lions will need to focus on stopping the big bodies up the seam in Olsen and Benjamin. Against the Bucs they were targeted 19 times and caught 14 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown each. If the Lions can contain Cam Newton and execute these two things, they shouldn’t have any problem starting the year 2-0.
The Lions face their first tough test on the road and manage to squeeze out a victory that comes down to the final minutes. Stafford faces adversity early on but continues to shine and the defense comes up big and forces a few turnovers late in the game.
Final score: Lions 27 – Panthers 24