After finally getting a win at home, the Detroit Lions continue the bid to turn around their 2020 season with another road trip out east.
Week 11 brings a visit to the Carolina Panthers, a place the Lions have not been since the 2014 season. Plenty has happened since that 24-7 loss on both sides of the field, so the team will have to come with a renewed focus this time around for the matchup.
What are the most important things to watch for the matchup? Here’s a look.
Will D’Andre Swift Reward Detroit’s Decision Makers?
It sure looks and sounds as if Swift will be the guy moving forward for Detroit at the running back position, which is a great sign considering the role he played in the team’s Week 10 win. Now, consistency is the thing that Swift will be chasing. Often times, that’s what young players find the hardest to do when they are getting their first starts in the league. If Swift sees a start and a bigger role, it will be important for him to have another good game in the process to prove he belongs and not look back.
How Bad is Matthew Stafford’s Thumb Injury?
Late in Week 10’s win, it sure didn’t look like Stafford was any worse for wear as he led the team down the field with confident throws for their eventual last second win. Only after the fact was it learned that Stafford himself didn’t like the way his thumb felt, and also, that there was some ligament damage to the thumb after x-rays which is a bit concerning. None of that is expected to prevent Stafford from seeing the field. Obviously, there will be no sitting Stafford who is a consummate tough teammate until the end. Will he struggle throwing the ball, though? In 2016, he played through a similar injury and the Lions limped down the stretch of what was a once promising season. Detroit needs Stafford to throw the ball well to have any type of chance.
Do Panthers Injuries Play a Major Role?
This week, the Panthers are expected to be without star running back Christian McCaffrey. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s status is also up in the air after a knee injury. It seems McCaffrey is the better bet not to play at this point, but if Bridgewater is hobbled that would be bad news for the Panthers as well. The Lions need all the help they can get, and if Carolina has to rely on PJ Walker and Mike Davis, that’s a huge step down from McCaffrey and Bridgewater. Carolina looked game to pull a mild upset on Detroit after their solid play last week, but if they are dinged up, that might go out the window in a big way.
Can Detroit Avoid Defensive Letdowns?
For most of Week 10’s game, the Lions played Washington well enough on defense until they fell apart in a big way during the 4th quarter. On the road against a team that has played well at times this season in spite of their 3-7 record, that cannot happen again this week. The Lions defense needs to find a way to play consistently, generate stops, avoid the penalties no matter how suspect and create some turnovers. If they cannot find a way to do this, it will be another long week regardless of who is playing quarterback or running back on the other side. To that end, this game could be on Detroit’s defense to put away should the team generate a lead. The defense must contribute a winning effort for Detroit.
Who Else Steps up for the Offense?
Without star wide receiver Kenny Golladay, the Lions got touchdowns from an impressive trio in Marvin Hall, Marvin Jones and D’Andre Swift. This week, they’re going to need that same type of balanced production in order to have a good enough week to win on the road. The team has needed all major players to step up and it’s been all hands on deck in terms of chipping in on the offensive side of the ball lately. Balanced production will once again be the only way the Lions can do enough to survive a major road test and beat a team that’s played better than their record indicates.
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