Friday, November 18, 2011

Can Panthers pull the upset at Detroit?

Some pregame notes -- and a prediction -- for the Panthers' game Sunday at Detroit:

First, who said this after last Sunday's huge loss?

"We can't get off to a slow start. We have to start faster and not rely on the fact that we can come back. It's just one of those games where nothing went right, and it happens. But I think we have the right people, and we'll respond next week."
Ron Rivera? Jordan Gross? Cam Newton?

No, that came from Detroit defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who was talking about the Lions' 37-13 loss to Chicago a week ago. That game bore a notable resemblance to Carolina's 30-3 loss to Tennessee, with both teams getting way down early and never coming back.

So while the 6-3 Lions and 2-7 Panthers are in a far different place in the NFL standings,, they are in the same place mentally. They just got embarrassed and they are determined to make it right Sunday.

-- I think we'll see the two starting wide receivers in the next Pro Bowl Sunday for the NFC. Steve Smith and Detroit's Calvin Johnson have both had stunning seasons so far. The yardage is similar (951 to 885 in Smith's advantage) but Johnson is the best end-zone target in the NFL right now. He has a startling 11 touchdowns already. Smith has four.

-- And if you think Newton throws to Smith a lot, check this out. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw at Johnson 19 times last week. Nineteen! Johnson caught seven of them. Newton usually targets Smith around 8-10 times per game.

-- While Detroit's front four is fearsome, the Lions' rushing defense is pedestrian, with numbers very similar to Carolina's rushing defense. In the teams' most recent meeting, the Panthers beat Detroit in 2008 by getting both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to rush for more than 100 yards while setting a then-franchise record of 264 rushing yards.

-- After missing the Panthers' outcome for three straight weeks, I finally got them right again a week ago when predicting them to lose to Tennessee. I'm 17-7 over the past 24 Panther games. Sunday's prediction: Detroit 31, Carolina 24.