Culpepper won't play tonight

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

The word is official from out in Buffalo: Detroit quarterback Daunte Culpepper (toe) won’t play Thursday night against the Bills. The news was expected, but the Lions hadn’t been willing to rule him out before now.

As we’ve discussed this week, Culpepper’s injury puts rookie Matthew Stafford in the driver’s seat to win the starting job. A strong performance against the Bills might lock it up. What would happen if Stafford stinks up the joint Thursday night? Well, then you would have to start wondering how serious Culpepper’s injury is. (The Lions said he had an accident at home Saturday night that required eight stitches.)

Stafford has shown flashes of brilliance mixed with rookie mistakes during the preseason, but the last thing the Lions want is to be forced to start him because of a lack of options. Their worst-case scenario is Stafford offering a shaky outing Thursday night and Culpepper not being healthy enough to start the Sept. 13 opener at New Orleans.

If that’s the case, Stafford would be the Lions’ only option. Third-string quarterback Drew Stanton had knee surgery this week. The other two quarterbacks on the Lions roster, Brooks Bollinger and Kevin O’Connell, joined the team Tuesday.

So right now, if you’re a Lions fan, you’re hoping Stafford is up to the challenge.