An In-Depth Preview Of The Lions Week Five Matchup Against The Carolina Panthers.
Catching Up With The 17′ Panthers
The Carolina Panthers and the Detroit Lions offer arguably the best matchup in the NFL for Week five, with both teams boasting a 3-1 record to start the season. While the Lions team has looked consistent and patient in their victories, the Panthers have won with big plays in close games.
In their first two games, the Panthers defeated the 49ers and the Bills in a similar fashion. Through the first two week the Panthers defense looked really good, being led by their defensive line. Their defensive line generated seven sacks and was consistently in the face of the quarterback. This in turned helped the secondary look good as well because quarterbacks did not have the amount of time they needed to run their offense well. The Panthers only allowed a field goal in each game because of this stout line stuffing the run and creating pressure.
However, their last two games the defense has looked like a different unit. They were still able to manage four sacks during this time, but the consistent pressure fell off. Which in turn allowed the Saints and Patriots high octane passing attacks to exploit their sub-par secondary play the past two weeks. The Panthers defense allowed 64 points combine from these games. But the difference between the win against the Patriots and the loss to the Saints is how well Cam Newton and his offensive line played.
Matchups To Watch In Detroit
Cam Newton vs Lions Defensive Ends
This matchup was a big reason for the difference in offensive production for the Panthers the last two weeks. The Saints defensive ends contained Newton well, getting to him four times and holding his runs to three carries for only fifteen yards. The Panthers offense really tests their oppenents edge contain with quarterback read-options, wide receiver end-arounds, and trick plays. The Saints succeeded in defending the edge, which even helped their 29th ranked defense hold the Panthers to thirteen points with one only touchdown.
This was an area the Lions really struggled with in 2016 though. Aaron Rodgers and mobile quarterbacks in the NFC have gashed the Lions for their defensive ends inability to edge contain. Outside of Ansah, no Lion defensive end was able to do so with any consistency last year. This is a big game for the Lions defense to show they have corrected this issue from last season.
Right now, the Lions defense currently ranks 17th in terms of yardage and 4th in points against and could be gaining Jarrad Davis back this week if he is able to completely pass concussion protocol. Anthony Zettel has been off to a hot start and Cornelius Washington has done well against the run so far on the edge. How these two fair against their tackles Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams will play a big role in how well the Lions are able to limit Cam Newton in this game. If they can create pressure and prevent Cam from scrambling, the Detroit defense will likely be able to give themselves a good chance to win this game.
Matthew Stafford vs Panthers Secondary
Carolina’s secondary has been playing poor the past few weeks compared to the rest of the defense. However, their defense as a whole has done well at stopping the run, holding running backs under 60 yards rushing and no touchdowns in these games. Which highlights how poor the the secondary has played to allow 64 points in the past few weeks. They allowed over 550 yards and five touchdowns without taking the ball away during this span.
This is where Matthew Stafford and company need to continue the trend Brady and Brees started with this defense. If Stafford can get time to survey the field like the way the Panthers have given up against the Saints and Patriots, you could see the Carolina defense give up 30+ points for three straight weeks.
Greg Robinson vs Mario Addison
With Stafford’s performance being so important to the success for the Lions against Carolina, it makes sense that his interim left tackle is also big factor. The Lions need Stafford upright and could really use success with their zone stretch run plays that they run so often. Robinson’s ability to win this matchup against Addison could heavily impact both of these areas.
However, there have been times in recent weeks where Robinson has really struggled and could play a bigger role in this game if these struggles continue. Where the Panthers defense has really thrived is when they have been able to create pressure this season. Addison has had an decent start with two sacks and has looked solid against the run against this season, so Robinson could have his work cut out for him.
Prediction: Lions Win 24-20
I expect the Lions run stuff to continue, even against a good rushing team like Carolina. This could force the Panthers to pass to have to pass to defeat the Lions. With the way the Lions secondary has played lately, I like their chances to get a win at home and move up to 4-1 on the season.