Getting the ball into the end zone is the biggest goal in football. An unexpected touchdown has the ability to make people spill drinks and dump nachos and hug total strangers. Field goals just can't compare.
Sunday's game between Detroit and Carolina will ultimately be decided by how often the Lions get the ball into the end zone. If it happens more than twice, I think Detroit wins this game. If it's two TDs or less for the Lions -- no matter how many field goals they achieve -- I think the Panthers will go to 2-0.
The Panthers only allowed 21 touchdowns in all of 2013, which was a team record and also led the NFL in that category. It was the first time the Panthers had ever been No.1 in TDs allowed. That's an average of only 1.3 per game allowed, and that's pretty remarkable.
But Detroit has one of the NFL's best offenses. The Lions hit paydirt four times in their 35-14 whipping of the New York Giants Monday night. In 2011, the last time Carolina and Detroit played, Detroit scored seven TDs (tied for the most the Panthers have ever given up in a single game) in a 49-35 whipping of the Panthers.
-- Matthew Stafford is one of football's best young quarterbacks, and he doesn't just throw the ball to Calvin Johnson, the NFL's best receiver. I have always thought Golden Tate was an underrated wideout -- now Detroit has him, too, and he was targeted six times in Week 1. Tate caught all six of them, for 93 yards.
-- With quarterback Cam Newton returning to action this weekend, I wonder how many high balls he will throw early. Like Brett Favre and Jake Delhomme, Newton has a tendency to get so wound up early that he overthrows the ball. An early interception would be a difficult thing for Newton to overcome. But if he can avoid that, there is a chance for big numbers Sunday. The Lions' secondary is mediocre.
-- It has been a weird week for the Panthers, but there is an urgency to September for them and they know it. The schedule only gets tougher in October. I am 1-0 on Panthers' game-by-game picks so far this season, and I think they will rise to the occasion Sunday. My pick: Carolina 20, Detroit 17.