Gary Danielson will start his first game of the 1978 season today for the Detroit Lions, and the young quarterback suspects he knows precisely what the Washington Redskins have planned for him, when the teams meet at the Silverdome at 1 p.m. (WDVM-TV-9).
"They're gonna try to kill me," said Danielson, a fourth-year man from Purdue. "Let's face it. they've got a great defense and they're going to try and confuse me as much as possible.
"Am I nervous? A little. But I'm sure not scared. Playing the Redskins won't make it any easier, but I'm ready to play. I know we're not as bad as the record looks. The fans are on us, the press is on us and I would hope my teammates are looking to me to help lead us out of this mess. All I can do is try."
The oddsmakers say he will fail. They favor the Redskins, undefeated in five games and off to their best start in seven years, by 10 points, against a 1-4 Detroit team coming off a devastating 35-14 loss to the Packers.
The Redskins will float into the Silverdome today, six days after their most significant victory of the season, a 9-5 classic over the Cowboys.
That victory gave them a two-game lead over Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants, all 3-2 in the NFL East. And yesterday, Coach Jack Pardee insisted his team has come back down to earth after several days of Dallas delerium.
"I don't expect any letdown," he said. "They were still thinking about the Cowboys on Wednesday, but the last three days we've had real good practices. They know what's at stake and I think they'll be ready."
One Redskin, however, may not. Though Pardee insisted yesterday he still believes Lemar Parrish will recover from spasms in his back to start, the veteran cornerback was not so sure.
"It's a little better," Parrish said, "but it's got to get a whole lot better for me to play. If it's not, I'll go to the man and tell him I can't do it. I want to play, but I want to be effective, too.
"Maybe I'll take a miracle pill tonight, because that's what I think it's gonna take - a miracle."
If Parrish cannot start, he will be replaced by third-year man Gerard williams, who started at the position through most of the 1977 season. Donnie Harris, a second-year man from Rutgers, will become the fifth back in the Redskin nickel defense in obvious passing situations.
Pardee said yesterday the Redskins probably will use all their defensive alignments - the nickel, the standard 4-3 and a bit of 3-4 as well in an effort to create some havoc for Danielson.
"That's just what I would expect," Danielson said. "They'll want to keep me off balance, and it's up to me not to get rattled. I think I can handle it. The Redskins do that kind of stuff against veteran quarterbacks, too.
"But I think if we can keep it close and not get into a runaway situation, it will give us some confidence. And if it's close in the third quarter, anything can happen."
That was precisely why Pardee has been emphasizing the importance of a quick start to his team all week.
"If you don't have a good start against a young football team like that, it has tendency to give them new life, to keep them encouranged," Pardee said. "And the longer you keep them encouraged, that's when they start thinking upset. And then it can get rough."
Still, the Lions have played like pussycats through most of the early season, scoring only five touchdowns in five games and allowing opposing offenses to run up 162 yards a game rushing.
The Lions do lead the entire NFL in defense against the pass, but two of their regular starters - free safety Jimmy Allen and left corner James Hunter - will miss the Redskin game with injuries.
The Lions also start rookie Luther Bradley at the right corner, and he has been beaten deep several times already this season. Joe Theismann, despite being a fellow Notre Dame alumnus, is expected to take full advantage of Bradley even if he was saying all the proper things about the Lion secondary.
"I don't look at their age or whether they're rookies," Theismann said. "When I look at the film I see what kind of football players they are., and they do have some fine players. The secondary likes to press receivers. They come up and try to knock them off at the line. They're very physical.
The Redskins never have played in the Silverdome. They own a 12-3 overall record against the Lions, including four straight . . . The Redskin defense has allowed only one touchdown in the last 12 quarters, none in the last eight . . . Redskin offense is averaging 324 yards a game, second in the NFC, 181 rushing and 143 passing.