The 4-5 Lions and the 3-7 Panthers aren’t all that different in terms of record, and interestingly enough, the Panthers have been quietly game in several ways this season. Detroit has struggled at times and has given the feel of a team that is teetering on the brink once in a while.
From the kickoff on, the Lions will have to be more than ready this week to deal with plenty of huge matchups that come their way. Here’s a look at identifying the biggest ones the team will face that they must win.
Lions Defensive Line vs. Mike Davis
Detroit won’t have to face Christian McCaffrey in this matchup, but it doesn’t mean his replacement will be any walk in the park, especially for a team that has struggled to stop the run no matter who is coming at them. Davis has 385 yards and 2 scores to his credit this year and has been well accustomed to running the ball for the Panthers in the absence of McCaffrey. Detroit’s defensive front has to do a better job against the run. They were alright in Week 10, but this will be a whole different challenge against a team that can be very physical no matter who is taking the handoffs.
Lions Defensive Backfield vs. Panthers Wide Receivers
This is a huge matchup for the game no matter who is playing quarterback for Carolina. The Panthers have a pair of productive, dynamic wideouts in Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. Moore and Anderson are already over 700 yards receiving on the year, and Samuel isn’t far behind closing in on 400. The group also has 7 touchdowns to their credit. This will be yet another big test for a much maligned Detroit defensive backfield that has struggled this season at times, and one that could play a big role in determining who wins the game. If the Panthers get the passing game going, they have proven to be tough to stop and can put up points. This matchup doesn’t play to Detroit’s strength in 2020, either.
Brian Burns vs. Detroit’s Offensive Line
A glimmer of hope for the Lions in this game exists in the form of the Panthers’ defense. Carolina flat out doesn’t get after the quarterback much with only 11 sacks to their credit. 4 of those, however, come from Burns, who does a nice job to get after it up front. The Lions can’t afford to let their quarterback get knocked around this week, so it will be a total team effort from what’s been an elite offensive line to keep him clean. Burns is the one guy who can cause some disruption, so the Lions will have to take note of him most of all in this contest.
D’Andre Swift vs. Panthers Defense
Very quietly, Swift is morphing into one of the toughest covers in the entire NFL. He’s great on the ground and has been elite through the air as well catching the ball. The Lions look set to turn him loose, so that will put pressure on the Carolina linebackers in order to find a way to cover him out of the backfield. This could be tough duty given the fact that Swift is already starting to come into his own and look much more comfortable on the field. It will be fascinating to see if he can continue to deliver the goods given a new role, and if he can also be a reason the Lions win the game as he was in Week 10.
READ NEXT: 5 Things to Watch in Lions vs. Panthers