Detroit Lions (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)
Time: 1 pm EST
Line: Carolina by 3
Keys to the game:
-Panthers' pass rush against QBs Mike McMahon and Joey Harrington. Although McMahon is slated to be the starter this Sunday, he is standing on thin ice with the third overall draft pick behind him. Detroit coach Marty Mornhinweg says Harrington is the backup, but do not be surprised if both see action. Nevertheless, with a combined four starts between them, there is an inexperience factor that Carolina head coach John Fox will try to exploit. The Lions' top 3 receiving options are new to the team, and may not have the right chemistry with McMahon for a quick dump-off under pressure. The Panthers, on the other hand, cannot allow deep passes to speedy receivers Bill Schroeder and Az-Zahir Hakim, and must contain the mobile QB.
-Lions' secondary vs. Panthers' receivers. Carolina was unimpressive, though efficient enough for the "W", through the air last week against a very inexperienced Ravens secondary. If the team expects to build upon their success, Rodney Peete must start to get more plays out of Mushin Muhammad and second-year speedster Steve Smith. CBs Todd Lyght and Eric Davis, on the other hand, looked awful against Miami, getting beaten on crossing routes all day, and generally looking old and slow. They must tighten up their coverages so that the front seven can focus upon stuffing the run.
-P Todd Sauerbrun vs. RS Desmond Howard. Possibly the two best at their jobs, although Steve Smith may have something to say about that before the day is done. Howard was ineffective last week, but it always a threat to break a long return. Sauerbrun will have to fight for the critical battle for field position by angling his punts and trying to get good hangtime.
Panthers Defense: 7.0 points/game (2nd); 289 total yards/game (12th); 77 rush yards/game (13th); 212 pass yards/game (18th).
Lions Defense: 49.0 points/game (32nd); 389 total yards/game (26th); 182 rush yards/game (28th); 207 pass yards/game (16th).
Panthers Offense: 10.0 points/game (29th); 265 total yards/game (26th); 145 rush yards/game (8th); 120 pass yards/game (31st).
Lions Offense: 21.0 points/game (21st); 257 total yards/game (28th); 51 rush yards/game (28th); 206 pass yards/game (18th).
Detroit Lions: OUT: LB Clint Kriewaldt (foot). QUESTIONABLE: DT Luther Elliss (quadricep). PROBABLE: C Eric Beverly (calf); RB James Stewart (knee).
Probable impact: the big loss is James Stewart, who is Detroit's only semblance of an every-down back. Though he says he will play, his knee will probably hinder him greatly.
Carolina Panthers: OUT: RB DeShaun Foster (knee); DE Kemp Rasmussen (hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: CB Dante Wesley (groin). PROBABLE: WR Muhsin Muhammad (shoulder); G Jamar Nesbit (ankle).
Probable impact: Mushin Muhammad must be at full capacity for QB Rodney Peete, or the offense will certainly sputter again.