NFL Week 2: Panthers vs Lions Preview


The Carolina Panthers successfully beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend without star quarterback Cam Newton. They won a key divisional game on the road. They likely raised their expectations by one win in most predictions. DeAngelo Williams and Kelvin Benjamin looked good. The defense was immoveable until the fourth quarter. All of these thing sound really good.

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The season did not end last week though. This week the Panthers get their first big test against the Detroit Lions, who made short work of the New York Giants on Monday Night in Week 1. The Lions are considered to be a playoff contender and they bring an exciting offense into Charlotte tomorrow. Given playoff tie breaker scenarios, this is a game the Panthers need to win.

Cam Newton will be on the field, in uniform this time. There is a chance that DeAngelo Williams (questionable, thigh) will not be. Can the Panthers find a way to contain Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson? Will the offensive line that handled Gerald McCoy reasonably well be able to deal with Ndamukong Suh? It’s Panthers vs Lions at Bank of America Stadium.

Date: September 14

Time: 1:00 PM

Venue: Bank of America Stadium


Radio: WBT (99.3 FM in Charlotte)

Sep 8, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes to wide receiver Calvin Johnson (not pictured) for a touchdown during the first quarter against the New York Giants at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Detroit Lions

The Lions are in their first year under former Wake Forest and Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell. That does not mean much has really changed for the Lions and their identity. The team is still reliant on the arm of Matthew Stafford finding some way to get the ball to Calvin Johnson. The only difference this year is that now Golden Tate and Eric Ebron are now there to draw some attention away from Johnson.

Even the running game is merely a supplement to Stafford’s arms. Running back Reggie Bush is the starter, and he is better known for the flexibility he brings to the position rather than being a straight up runner. He adds another receiver out of the backfield to keep track of.

On defense, the Lions bring two quality defensive tackles in Suh and Nick Fairley. Suh has a reputation for playing a little dirty, so look out to see if he tries to test Cam’s ribs at some point in the game. The linebackers are anchored by former NC State linebacker Stephen Tulloch. The secondary includes big cornerback Rashean Mathis. Mathis is not where he was when he played for Jacksonville, but he can still offer a physical style on his side of the field.

Detroit should not be underestimated. Even as a 7-9 team last year, the Lions lost six of those games by five points or less.

To beat the Lions, the Panthers must stop the Lions offense. That can be done in two ways that the Panthers have won games in the past. They need to run the ball on offense, and they need to pressure Stafford on defense. Both of these things will cause the Lions offense to become less effective. One will keep it off the field and the other will lead Stafford to mistakes. Stafford still likes to try and make things happen even if they are not there.

Sep 8, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) makes a catch and runs from New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (21) during the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Lions Player To Watch: Calvin Johnson, WR

If the defense cannot get to Stafford, it will be a long day for the secondary. Johnson is essentially what you would want if you were building a receiver from scratch. 6’5” 225 or 230 lbs and runs a sub 4.4 forty yard dash time. There isn’t a good way to stop Johnson unless you stop Stafford. If Johnson has a big day, it is likely a sign that the Panthers will lose. I personally hate losing to anyone named Megatron…

Panthers Player To Watch: Trai Turner, G

The rookie from LSU will be lined against either Suh or Fairley the entire game. In rushing situations he will have to push them off the ball. On pass plays he will have to hold his ground. He will have Ryan Kalil to help out, but this will be a true test of the faith that we should have in Turner.

Prediction: Panthers 23-20
ONJ Record: 9-1

In the end, I think that Cam Newton will be fine and the offensive line will hold enough. There will be one big play to Kelvin Benjamin on play action, but mostly we will see a lot of Jonathan Stewart and a lot of Graham Gano. I think the game is decided much the way that the Tampa game was. I think pressure will get to Stafford and cause some sort of turnover to secure victory. Johnson will get good numbers, but not ultimately kill the Panthers.