Well, here we are. Christmas time in the NFL season is a time where Lions fans are used to asking Santa for the offseason to hurry up. But we’re here and not only are the Lions playing meaningful games, they have a pretty realistic shot at the playoffs. Only being half a game behind the 7 seed commanders, the Lions have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league and are winners of 6 of the last 7. It seems so easy, but as we know, most things that seem too good to be true usually are. We’re gonna look at how the Lions can avoid a trap game to the sneakily talented Panthers team, who happen to be fighting for a playoff spot themselves.
Carolina is an interesting opponent for the Lions. With the season winding down and them being 4 games below .500, you’d be surprised to find that the Panthers are pretty close to middle of the pack in offensive and defensive stats as a team. The weak point of course being their passing offense that’s currently helmed by Sam Darnold. I may add that in his first NFL start he led the jets to a blowout win over Detroit. But Lions fans may brush off the fact that the Panthers seem to be a bit better than their record suggests. Doesn’t matter right? They’re 5-9 they should be phoning it in for the year and playing for a draft pick, right? Well if you look at the NFC South, because of how bad the division is, the Panthers are in the midst of their own fight for a playoff spot.
So the Panthers will probably bring their all to the table, but what can Detroit do to fend that off? Defensively, the number one thing is to keep the pressure on Sam Darnold. Remember that despite him beating Detroit in his first start, he started the game by panicking under pressure and throwing a bad pick six to Quandre Diggs. If the Lions can put pressure on the QB and not let him get the time to find DJ Moore downfield, then they can put that offense in some tough spots. As for the Lions offense they have got to get the ground game going. Carolina has struggled in run defense more than pass defense. They have two nice young corners in CJ Henderson and Jaycee Horn. When the time comes to pass, we want play action to help take linebackers out of the play so that we don’t have to test the boundaries. Over the middle of the field is where Amon Ra St Brown operates best, and if Goff continues to play turnover free football that would be great for our chances.
On paper this looks like a win for the Lions. However, if they aren’t careful, they could end up falling victim to a trap game against a team that’s just as hungry for a win as they are. Remember, both of these teams are one good weekend out of a playoff spot and that means both will have to bring their best.