Lions look to solidify themselves as contenders in Week 2
Panthers' Greg Hardy, convicted of domestic abuse, inactive for game
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spent the early part of the week handing out an unwanted nickname to the man he hopes to avoid on Sunday. Newton, who missed the season-opening 20-14 win at Tampa Bay, leads the Panthers into a battle of 1-0 teams when they host the Detroit Lions. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback referred to Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as "Donkey Kong Suh" on Wednesday, and while Suh declined comment a day later, he might be saving his response for the field.
Suh and the Lions were dominant against the run in last week's 35-14 win over the New York Giants, allowing only 53 rushing yards, but will have their work cut out against a Carolina team that put up a respectable 113 yards on the ground without Newton, who is one of their top rushers. The Lions are banged up along the offensive line, meaning they'll either have to move guard Garrett Reynolds to right tackle or start undrafted free agent Cornelius Lucas there against Carolina's outstanding defensive line. That Panthers defense is tasked with slowing down an offense that put up big numbers against the Giants, and the key will be pressuring Matthew Stafford, who lit up the Panthers for 335 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-35 win in the most recent meeting in 2011.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Panthers -2.5. O/U: 43.5.
ABOUT THE LIONS (1-0): Detroit isn't expected to be as pass-happy as in recent years under new coach Jim Caldwell, but Stafford wasn't shy about putting the ball in the air against the Giants. He was 22-of-32 for 346 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and also had a rushing score, but might have protection issues against a stout Panthers defense. Detroit's defense was stingy against the Giants, allowing only 197 total yards — its third-best total in the past eight seasons.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (1-0): Newton's expected return from a cracked rib makes Carolina's offense far more dynamic than with Derek Anderson at the helm, both on the ground and in the passing game. Newton's longtime favorite target, Steve Smith, is gone, but he has plenty of weapons at his disposal including rookie Kelvin Benjamin, who looked like an impact player in his debut with six catches for 92 yards and a score against the Bucs. The defense, one of the league's best a year ago, sacked Tampa Bay's Josh McCown three times and forced three turnovers with star linebacker Luke Kuechly accounting for a sack and a forced fumble.
1. Lions WR Calvin Johnson has topped 100 yards receiving in 22 of his last 34 games and had seven catches for 164 yards and two TDs last week.
2. The Panthers are aiming for their seventh consecutive home win.
3. Newton threw a career-high four interceptions in Carolina's loss to Detroit in 2011.
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