After Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season, the Carolina Panthers were right in the thick of the hunt in the NFC South. It appeared to be a three-way chase for the division crown at the time as the Panthers, Buccaneers and Saints all held records of 3-2.
Meanwhile, the Falcons were 0-5 and ready to fire their head coach and general manager. Fast forward to the eve of Week 11, and every team has seemed to win games since that point except the Panthers.
Under interim head coach Raheem Morris, Atlanta has won three of four, while New Orleans and Tampa Bay both have seven wins, and the Saints are the No. 2 seed in the NFC as it currently stands. Carolina, meanwhile, has lost five straight and has sunk to the bottom of the division despite four of those games being decided by one possession.
To add injury to insult, the Panthers could be without several key players for their Week 11 matchup with the Lions, including their two most important players on offense. Christian McCaffrey's frustrating campaign has been well-documented.
The league's highest-paid running back injured his ankle in Week 2 and missed the next six games. He returned against the Chiefs only to injure his shoulder on the final drive of the game, forcing him to miss last week's loss to the Buccaneers. He'll be out once again this week against Detroit.
McCaffrey's injury issues are nothing new in 2020, but not having quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would be a big blow as well. Bridgewater sprained his right knee last week, and his status for Sunday is in doubt after being limited in practice.
The Panthers would turn to some combination of Will Grier and PJ Walker if Bridgewater were unable to go, but the starting signal-caller would only be expected to miss one week. Grier hasn't taken a snap this year, though he did start two games filling in for Cam Newton last season. Walker filled in for Bridgewater briefly on a Thursday night against Atlanta in Week 8.
Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there.
Other Key Injuries
Two other key starters are expected to miss Sunday's game as well. Left tackle Russell Okung has a calf that will prevent him from dressing, and cornerback Donte Jackson will be held out because of an injured toe. Jackson leads the defense with three interceptions and is second with six pass breakups.
Most sportsbooks have taken this game off the board until there is some definitive clarity on Bridgewater's status, but Carolina was a three-point favorite in most places.
He's not the only quarterback in this game whose status is in question, though, as Lions' signal-caller Matthew Stafford is dealing with a thumb injury and is taking it day by day.
It will be interesting to see how the line is affected if both quarterbacks are unable to play, but it will certainly sway in favor of the team whose leader can go if that is, in fact, the case.