Week 11 features an intriguing matchup between two clubs who are maybe better than their records indicate. The Detroit Lions (4-5) are looking for their second straight win in order to have an outside chance at the postseason. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers (3-7) are hoping to snap their five-game losing streak and play spoiler.
Here is a preview of Sunday’s game between the Lions and Panthers in Charlotte, complete with a free pick. Carolina is currently a 1.5-point favorite at home.
In year three of head coach Matt Patricia’s tenure, the Lions have slowly improved enough to be competitive nearly every week. After losing back-to-back games against the Colts and Vikings to open up November, they responded with a close win against Washington last Sunday.
Winning their next three against the struggling Panthers, Texans and Bears would be huge for their slim playoff chances.
Led by longtime quarterback Matthew Stafford, Detroit comes into the game averaging 25.2 points per game, 16th in the NFL. The Lions are 15th with 379 total yards per game, although their passing attack has been much more effective than their ground game.
This is thanks to an impressive group of pass-catchers, led by wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., as well as second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson.
While their offense has been decent, the defense of the Lions has been less than stellar. Detroit is allowing an average of 29.7 points, the fourth-most in football, while also allowing the fifth-most yards at 414. They have struggled equally against the run and pass.
Detroit is allowing opponents to convert on third downs nearly 48 percent of the time. The Lions also have 13 sacks and five interceptions as a team, the third-fewest and fourth-fewest in the league, respectively.
It’s a new era in Carolina with head coach Matt Rhule. In Rhule’s first year of what was expected to be a complete rebuild, the Panthers actually got out to a solid 3-2 start.
But since then, they have gone on to lose their last five games. However, all but last week’s loss to the Buccaneers were by single digits. While the playoffs are seemingly out of reach, the Panthers will still try to end their season on a high note and build momentum heading into next season.
Under new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who replaced former MVP Cam Newton, Carolina is 21st in the NFL with 23.3 points per game and 365 total yards. They’re 21st in rushing yards per game, a testament to the veteran running back Mike Davis, who has stepped in as All-Pro back Christian McCaffrey continues to deal with injuries.
Wide receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson have also had nice years to help give Carolina a decent passing attack.
Defensively, one of the youngest units in the NFL has tried its best to hold its own. The Panthers are 21st with 27.2 points allowed but rank just inside the top 20 with 387 yards allowed.
However, that’s as good as it gets for Carolina. They have the worst third-down defense in football with a 55.3 percent conversion rate for their opponents. They also have just 11 sacks as a team, with just the Jaguars registering fewer, and five interceptions just like the Lions.
These are both teams who have struggled against the spread recently. Detroit is 4-5 ATS this season while also 3-7 in their last 10 games on the road.
Carolina hasn’t fared any better, going 1-7-1 ATS in their last nine home games overall but 5-5 ATS this season as a whole. However, there could be some points, as the over has hit in eight of Detroit’s last 12 games as well as seven of Carolina’s last eight contests following an ATS loss.
More information will be released as we get closer to game day, but the Lions are keeping a close eye on both Stafford and Jones. Stafford has a thumb injury on his throwing hand that held him out of practice on Wednesday, while Jones missed practice with a knee injury. Other notable players like Golladay, Hockenson, and linebacker Jarrad Davis were all limited participants in practice.
For Carolina, McCaffrey has been ruled out once again after injuring his shoulder a couple of weeks ago. But the Panthers are also worried about their quarterback, as Bridgewater hurt his knee last Sunday and is questionable, although he did practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday.
Guard John Miller and linebacker Tahir Whitehead were among the four who missed practice, while tackle Russell Okung and edge-rusher Yetur Gross-Matos were among the limited participants.
This line opened up with Carolina as a three-point favorite but has shifted with some questions regarding Bridgewater’s status for the game. But regardless of whether he’s in or not, I like the Lions in this contest.
Detroit’s weapons on offense will be too much for a Panthers team that doesn’t get to the quarterback and doesn’t force a lot of turnovers. I like the road team to take advantage of a team that has lost five in a row and is without its far-and-away best player. Give me Detroit straight-up in this game.
Pick: Lions +1.5