Five fearless predictions for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game at Detroit:
1. Ziggy Ansah will have three hits on Cam Newton
And one of them will be a sack. Ansah has been struggling with a knee injury that sidelined throughout training camp, although he had a three-sack game vs. the Giants in Week 2 – his only sacks this season. But Ansah should be able to get pressure against either Matt Kalil, who’s questionable with a groin injury and had trouble with Ansah while with Minnesota, or his backup Amini Silatolu. Expect tight end Ed Dickson to help out.
2. One of those pressures will result in an INT
The Lions have been exceptional at creating turnovers, which used to be a strength of the Panthers’ defenses. Detroit is tied for the league lead with 11 takeaways, including seven interceptions. One of Ansah’s blindside hits on Newton will produce a floater that will be picked off, giving the Lions a short field in a game when field position will be key.
3. Panthers’ big receivers will exploit a big mismatch
Detroit’s cornerbacks have played well. But both Darius Slay (6-0) and Nevin Lawson (5-9) will be giving up a lot of size to Panthers wideouts Kelvin Benjamin (6-4) and Devin Funchess (6-4). Each receiver will catch at least four passes. And Funchess, who grew up outside Detroit and went to Michigan, will pull down a touchdown pass in the red zone in his homecoming game.
4. Carolina will finally come up with a takeaway
The Panthers’ defense hasn’t forced a turnover in its past three games, the longest such stretch since 2006. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown 137 consecutive passes without an interception. Advantage, Lions, right? Probably, except that the Panthers’ pass rush should be able to get to Stafford and at least force him out of the pocket to throw on the move. Stafford will force a pass into coverage during one of those plays and Luke Kuechly will have his second INT of the year.
5. Game will come down to a field goal
It was a big week for Panthers kickers past and present. Graham Gano drilled the game-winner in New England last week a day before Kansas City rookie Harrison Butker, who competed with Gano during the preseason, beat the Redskins with a 43-yarder on Monday Night Football. But this week it will be Lions kicker Matt Prater who will deliver the dagger to the Panthers. Prater, who’s already set an NFL record with four field goals of 55 yards or more, won’t add to his 55-plus collection. But he will win the game. Lions 23, Panthers 20.
Panthers at Lions
Ford Field, Detroit
Sunday, 1 p.m.
FOX (Kenny Albert, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver)