With the Detroit Lions set for their week two matchup on the road against the Carolina Panthers, I got together with Cat Crave’s Bryan Palmese for a Q&A.
Here are my questions with his answers.
1. The Panthers were a surprise 12-4 last year, can they repeat that success or are you expecting a step back this year?
"I believe Carolina overachieved in 2013. That being said, I am not as down on the Panthers as most of the media has been in thinking that they are going to be a sub-.500 team and miss the playoffs. I believe they are as good this year as they were last year, but will drop down to a 10-6 record. The NFC South is the least predictable division in the NFL, so if Carolina can handle their business within their division, a wild-card berth is very likely."
2. With Cam Newton expected to start on Sunday, what can we expect from him?
"Honestly, I think Cam Newton is primed to have a huge day on Sunday. Newton’s absence last week was the first time he had to watch a regular-season game from the sidelines in his career. He wanted to play last week, but got shut down by the coaching staff. Newton’s passion for the game has an innocence reminiscent of a child when he is on the field and this desire has been caged for most of the offseason. Being the home opener and a sold-out Bank of America Stadium on Sunday will only stoke the inferno raging inside of Newton. I think he will look for Jerricho Cotchery and Kelvin Benjamin quite a bit in the passing attack, but will also extend the play when the pocket breaks down. Thus far, Cam has been fearless, so I don’t think he will wait long to test drive his ankle and rib-protecting flack jacket. I see a 250-yard passing day, 2 touchdowns and maybe five rushes, with one exciting gainer."
3. This looks like a nice matchup between the Panthers defense and the Lions offense; who do you give the advantage to?
"This is a tough one. I love the explosiveness that Detroit possesses and Calvin Johnson is the most electrifying player in the NFL. Our secondary will have their work cut out for them, but I think our front-seven is ready to attack. I think Reggie Bush is the wildcard for the Lions and our linebackers will have to keep their eyes on him at all times. If Carolina can keep Megatron in front of them, rather than behind their DBs and make Stafford uncomfortable, I think the Panthers have the slightest edge. The short week and playing on the road will be the x-factor in tilting the advantage Carolina’s way."
4. How impressed have you been with Kelvin Benjamin and what do the Lions need to do to contain him and the Panthers offense?
"Kelvin Benjamin has been awe-inspiring thus far. The knock on him was his hands and route running, but that has not been an issue. I would like to see him block a little better and stay focused for 60-minutes, but that can all be coached up over time. The Lions will need to put their most gifted CB on Benjamin and roll coverage over to him. No point in putting the tallest DB on him, because Benjamin has shown already that he is too much to handle. Jamming him at the line would help too, because he has not figured out how to explode off of the line and out-physical guys yet."
5. What is your prediction for Sunday’s game?
"After watching what Detroit did against the Giants this past week, I think it could go either way. Granted the New York defense is nowhere near Carolina’s, but the ease that Stafford had to deliver darts wherever he wanted was intriguing. Megatron will get his 125-yards and a touchdown or two, but Carolina focuses on keeping everyone else in check. I think this game will be a high-scoring affair and will come down to field position and a late turnover. Since the game is the Panthers’ home opener and Cam Newton is back, I predict Carolina wins on a late score. Carolina Cats – 30 Detroit Cats – 27"
For more from the Panthers side of Sunday’s game, check out Cat Crave.