The Detroit Lions are coming off a short week, but the win on Monday night proved that Jim Caldwell’s methods can work. It’s not magic, it’s hard work. Now they take the show on the road to the Carolina Panthers. Both teams are coming off wins, but this will be Cam Newton’s 2014 debut. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
1. Keep penalties to a minimum. This was a huge problem that the Lions were able to overcome on Monday night after they were hit for eight penalties costing them 85 yards in the first half. They adjusted to what the officials were calling and had zero in the second half. It’d be rare to have zero in a game, but certainly keep that number low would be to the Lions’ advantage. They were just killing themselves in that first half. We’ve seen it before and it generally doesn’t end well.
2. The Panthers feature one of the top front sevens in the NFL, but still the Lions can’t give up on the run. They struggled out of the gate vs. the Giants to run the ball, but never gave up. In the seven-minute, 80-yard fourth-quarter drive they stayed with the run to grind time off the clock and it worked.
3. The Lions must stop the Panthers on the ground, that includes mobile quarterback Cam Newton, who didn’t play last week because of injured ribs. If Newton isn’t 100 percent, he might be vulnerable and you can bet Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley might be a little more pumped up thanks to Newton’s “Donkey Kong Suh” comments this week. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert provide a triple threat on the ground.
4. Protect Matthew Stafford as well as the first game. This will be tougher because the right tackle will be new. Garrett Reynolds, a five-year NFL veteran, is expected to start. He’s more of a guard, but Caldwell insists he’ll play well at tackle. The offensive line is taking this in stride insisting whoever steps in at right tackle will be ready to go.
5. Get Calvin Johnson the ball. In the recent past, this sounded so easy but didn’t always work. Against a weak Giants’ defense, Johnson had seven catches for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He and Stafford seemed to have a better connection. They need to maintain that connection in Carolina.
Prediction: Lions 31, Panthers 24