NFC North: James Stewart
Hopefully, Detroit coaches and players are smart enough. Hopefully, they won't pat themselves on the back after holding Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme to 98 passing yards Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
After all, the Panthers had little reason to throw the ball when two members of their backfield were putting together 100-yard days. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 250 yards, and overall Carolina rushed for 262.
The Lions have now given up at least 150 rushing yards in six of their 10 games this season. If you're consistently giving up huge chunks of rushing yards, it means you can't stop opponents from accomplishing the most basic task in football: Pushing you out of the way.
As a result, an early lead can be a mirage. The Lions were ahead 10-0 and 13-7 before the Panthers outscored them 24-9 the rest of the way. No matter what other areas they try to shore up, the Lions are going to have a hard time breaking their losing streak if they can't muscle up against the run.
It's not too hard to cull the primary goal of all four NFC North teams in Thursday night's preseason finales: Stay healthy.
Take this history lesson from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press: The last two times the Detroit Lions visited Buffalo for their preseason finale, as they will tonight, a significant injury occurred.
In 2003, starting tailback James Stewart separated his right shoulder and never played for the Lions again. In 2005, meanwhile, quarterback Jeff Garcia fractured his left fibula and sprained his ankle. He missed the next five games and wasn't very effective upon his return.
Those kind of horror stories will compel all four division coaches to limit starters to a series or two, at best, Thursday night. Most teams have a pretty good idea about their rosters and have only a few, if any, decisions remaining.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Both Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times and David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune mentioned Chicago Bears receiver Mark Bradley as player who doesn't seem to have a lock on a roster spot yet.
- Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Johnny Jolly had his court case moved to Sept. 16. He was arrested July 8 in Houston for felony drug possession. Jolly could eventually face discipline from the NFL.
- Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes a look at what it feels like to be cut. The Packers have to shed 22 players by 3 p.m. Saturday.
- Minnesota Vikings safety Darren Sharper, describing himself: "I'm like a fine wine, a Cabernet-Merlot-Shiraz blend. It can do a lot of things. It gets better as you open it up and let it get out there and air out, filtrate, do all those things. I don't even need a decanter. Just let me go out there and run. Pour me in your mouth, suck it up and let it run."