RB DeShaun Foster will see a lot of action Sunday as the Panthers likely will rest Stephen Davis.

The Panthers were happy to welcome back safety Jarrod Cooper, a key member of their special teams. Cooper is a valuable gunner and has been missed by the Panthers.

"He's going to help our special teams tremendously," safety Mike Minter said." He's a high-energy guy who brings a lot of emotion. And he's tough to replace when he's not in there."


--RB Stephen Davis is questionable with an ankle injury and will probably not play this week to give the ankle time to heal for the playoffs.

--RB DeShaun Foster will see a lot of action Sunday as the Panthers likely will rest Stephen Davis.

--RB Rod Smart could see some carries Sunday if the Panthers rest Stephen Davis as expected.

--CB Terry Cousin admitted Wednesday he won't play this week as he tries to get his calf injury healthy.

--CB Ricky Manning will likely make his third straight NFL start in place of the injured Terry Cousin. The Lions will attempt to target the rookie in their passing game.

--DT Brentson Buckner could sit the Lions game out with a sore knee. The Panthers are trying to get players healthy for the playoffs, especially with this game against the Lions being meaningless.

--C Jeff Mitchell is likely to sit out this week with a groin injury. Expect rookie Bruce Nelson to get the start.

--C Bruce Nelson is likely to make his first NFL start this week against the Lions in place of the injured Jeff Mitchell.

--DE Mike Rucker will probably be held out again this week while getting his knee ready for the playoffs.

--DE Al Wallace will likely start again this week for Mike Rucker, who is likely to sit out and rest his injured knee.

--LB Dan Morgan has been cleared to play this week after missing the last two weeks.

GAME PLAN: Carolina will probably be without a number of starters and they just want to come out of this game with a win to keep momentum going and no more injuries. That lends itself to a conservative game plan, eating time off the clock in big chunks. Look for DeShaun Foster to get the bulk of the load on offense for the Panthers especially with Stephen Davis likely to sit out.

Expect the Panthers to be fairly vanilla on defense with so many guys out or nursing injuries.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Panthers RT Jordan Gross vs. Lions DE Robert Porcher -- There are a lot of Panthers campaigning this week for rookie Jordan Gross to go to the Pro Bowl. Well, Gross will get one of his toughest assignments of the year when he faces the Lions all-time sack leader. Gross has great footwork and slides very well in protection and is a huge reason why the Panthers have improved in the running game this season.

INJURY IMPACT: Five starters did not practice on Wednesday, including running back Stephen Davis (ankle), center Jeff Mitchell (groin), defensive end Mike Rucker (knee), cornerback Terry Cousin (leg) and defensive tackle Brentson Buckner (knee), and all are listed as questionable.

All five could sit out this week in what amounts to a meaningless game for the Panthers, who are unlikely to be anything higher than the third seed in the NFC playoffs.

--The Panthers are expected to get middle linebacker Dan Morgan back this week and cornerback Reggie Howard should return as well.

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