Predator vs. Prey is a new weekly column that will feature a preview of the Panthers’ opponent for that given week. We will breakdown the X’s and O’s, match-ups on both sides of the ball, and predict the outcome for the game. Whether it’s Sunday, Monday or Thursday night, CatCrave.com has you covered for everything you need to know leading up to the big game.
Predator: Carolina Panthers
Prey: Detroit Lions
Environment: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Time of Kill: 1 PM
It’s time to open Bank of America Stadium and get the Carolinas pumped up. The Detroit Lions, coming off of an impressive primetime win over the New York Giants, are the prey this week.
The two biggest targets for the predators will be quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the deadly wide receiver, Calvin Johnson. It’s nearly impossible to stop Megatron, so the Panthers will be best-suited to worry about the other eleven players on offense. The Lions do still have Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in the backfield, and have also added free agent Golden Tate to their arsenal.
Matt Stafford is one of the top-10 quarterbacks in the NFL, but he can be inconsistent. The Panthers will need to get after him with their signature defense in order to disrupt his timing. Stafford can get rattled and has shown an inability to be consistent, so neutralizing his strengths will be crucial for the Carolina D.
The Lions’ Ndamukong Suh is the Megatron of their defense. He is big, he is strong and he plays with a mean streak.
His presence frees up DE Ezekiel Ansah to use his freakish athleticism to get after opposing quarterbacks. Byron Bell, Amini Silatolu and Ryan Kalil will have their work cut out for them handling these two premier talents. DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch roam the middle perimeter of the Detroit defense.
Predator on Offense:
The return of Cam Newton is one of the biggest storylines today. The captain of their offense, the mobile Newton cannot wait to get back on the field and start shredding some defenses. Look for Cam to reach out to his shiny new weapon, Kelvin Benjamin several times today against an outmatched Detroit secondary. The wildcard is Jerricho Cotchery and I think he will be Newton’s most reliable weapon at receiver.
The Panthers will be without DeAngelo Williams today, so the rushing workload will rely on Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whitaker. The Detroit front line is strong and quick, but the Panthers’ offensive line looked very good last week against an equally as stacked Tampa defense.
Cam will get his usual five-to-seven carries and will probably bust off a long-run at some point, but he needs to focus on getting all of his receivers touches. I see Newton tossing up 250 yards passing, two touchdowns and about 30 yards on the ground.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The key to the Panthers moving the ball will be to get Stewart and Whitaker going early. They might not find openings in the first and second quarter, but things will open up more in the latter stages of the game. I expect a high scoring affair, so this offense will need to be clicking on all cylinders.
Predator on Defense:
The Panthers’ secondary looked like a strength last week, but this week’s prey is not the Buccaneers.
Calvin Johnson is a beast and all 74,000 fans know that’s where Stafford wants to go with the rock. As long as the predator can keep his prey in front of him, and not let him behind them, Carolina should be good. Sure tackling will be at a premium as both Lions’ receiving weapons are dangerous after the catch.
Reggie Bush is a tough back to plan for too, because he can beat you on the ground, and as a receiving option. He might have lost a step since his New Orleans’ days, but he is still a dangerous weapon. Carolina will most likely use Luke Kuechly in a spy role and would not be surprised to see a player like Greg Hardy standing up more than normal to cut off the screen and bubble routes.
I think the Panthers’ front seven will be able to make Stafford uncomfortable most of the day which takes the timing off between he and Megatron. Kuechly, Thomas Davis and A.J. Klein will need to be better in coverage today than last week when pressuring Stafford.
I believe the first Panthers’ defensive touchdown of the season will be scored today as the pressure will get to Stafford. Not sure which predator will sink his teeth into the six points, but my guess is Thomas DeCoud.
This game will not be lacking in points scored.
FINAL VERDICT: CAROLINA - 30 DETROIT - 27