Football Preview: Lions at Panthers

Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WSPA) – The Panthers may be without their starting quarterback, running back, left tackle, and cornerback, among others, as they get ready for a home matchup with Detroit. 

Panthers

The Panthers have been extremely competitive this year, but it hasn’t translated to wins as they bring a 3-7 record into Sunday’s game. And now they’ll likely have to contend with the Lions without Teddy Bridgewater at the helm. They already have ruled out Chrisitan McCaffrey, who hasn’t played since he suffered a shoulder injury against Kansas City a couple weeks ago. Bridgewater went down with a knee injury against the Buccaneers, and his status for this week will be a game-time decision. . On top of all of that, left tackle Russel Okung is yet again expected to miss another week, and they’ve added cornerback Donte Jackson to the list. The Fourth-round selection and Greer native Troy Pride Jr. is now in line to get in the start in his place. Head Coach Matt Rhule discussed what Pride brings to the table below: 

It’s another week where Mike Davis gets lead back duties in relief of McCaffrey. But he has struggled as of late, and was limited to  32 yards on seven carries against Tampa Bay in a game where the Panthers were playing from behind most of the afternoon. But the team needs to find a resurgence in that area which was once a strength of this team earlier in the season. 

If Bridgewater is a no go, and it appears that will be the case, then it’s either P.J. Walker or Will Grier in line to start for Carolina. Grier has two starts under his belt in the NFL, throwing for 228 yards and four interceptions with no touchdowns. Walker has seen action in two games this season completing three of eight passes for 15 yards. On Friday, Rhule discussed Bridgewater’s potential absence and his status for Sunday: 

Lions

Detroit has been dealing with a slew of injuries entering week 11. Headlining the list was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was limited for most of the week with a right thumb injury. However, the latest reports indicate he’s likely to get the start against the Panthers, though his designation remains “questionable”. If he gets the nod, that would be a huge boost for the ailing Lions. 

They’ll also be without top target Kenny Golladay, rookie running back D’Andre Swift, and receiver Danny Amendola as well. Several others on the defensive side are currently considered “questionable”.

Generally, Detroit has been in the middle of the pack in terms of points scored (52.2/game), but rank 29th in points allowed (29.7/game).  

Stafford has been more or less his typical self, putting up solid numbers in the passing game even though he’s been without some key pieces at various points throughout the season. Second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson has been the most targeted player so far and has 36 catches for 373 yards and five touchdowns this season. Hockenson is a great blocking tight end with great receiving skills as well. He’s one of the more balanced threats at the position in the league. Very much your standard University of Iowa tight end. Veteran Marvin Jones Jr. will likely be the go-to go on the outside with the absence of Golladay and Amendola. Jones has been solid this season as a #2 option, with 33 catches for 404 yards and five touchdowns. He’s an above average route runner that gets consistent separation. 

With Swift out of the lineup, they’ll once again turn to 35-year-old Adrian Peterson. Despite joining the team as a depth piece, Peterson has paced the Lions rushers with 97 attempts for 371 yards this season. Kerryon Johnson will serve as his backup this week, but he’s seen the fewest looks of the group and has just over one hundred yards this season. Both are downhill runners, and Peterson still produces glimpses of his trademark burst. His vision is exceptional, and he never shies away from contact, so the Panthers will need to practice the most fundamental aspects of tackling in facing him. 

On defense, Detroit has struggled to stop opponents in 2020. They’re in the bottom ten against the run and the pass, and and are among the league leaders in missed tackles. It’s been a tough year for the 4-5 Lions, though they’ve remained competitive similar to the Panthers. 

Defensive end Romeo Okwara stands out among the group and paces the team with six sacks this season. Interior lineman Danny Shelton is hard to move, and is effective at plugging gaps in the run game. Outside linebacker Jamie Collins has been a bright spot for the team, and leads the unit in total tackles. He’s also been a heavy presence in all three levels, recording a sack, two forced fumbles, along with three pass deflections and an interception. He’s all over the field. Their secondary has been vulnerable as well, but safety Duron Harmon is probably the best of the defensive backs. He has two interceptions this year with four pass deflections as well. And he’s been very active against the run as well. 

Matchup

Both teams have taken similar paths this year. They’ve both pulled off upsets while remaining competitive in several other games, but also have had some troubling losses in the process. 

The outcome of this game will largely be dependent on who starts at quarterback for either team. If Stafford goes, but Bridgewater is out it’s going to be very tough for the Panthers to overcome that obstacle with a relatively brand new quarterback at the helm. But if Bridgewater goes, and Stafford sits, then the odds swing in Carolina’s favor. If they both are getting the start, then it’s largely a toss-up. 

The Panthers need to find success on the ground like they did earlier this season. And if they can key in on the Lions’ rushing attack, especially with several receivers out of the picture, then the Panthers likely come away with a win on Sunday. 

But given the state of these two franchises this season, anything can happen. 

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