Zumapress/Icon SMI - Cam Newton, resident bad, bad man.
The Lions, currently 6-3 and poised to fall down a really familiar and ugly deep well after losing three of their last four games, should be incredibly eager for the Carolina Panthers to come to Ford Field on Sunday. They should be eager to prove that history will, in fact, NOT be repeating itself this year. These are NOT the same old Lions.
But they have to win this Sunday, simply MUST, against a 2-7 Panthers team at home where they are favored by 7+ points. The world expects the Lions to win this game...
Which is why I'm scared. This the kind of game that bad gamblers bet on...because it seems like such a sure thing....this is the kind of game the Lions are supposed to win...but the "Same Old Lions" will always prove you wrong. Over the last ten years the Lions pretty much lost every game they were "supposed" to win...along with all the games they were supposed to lose too...before that, in the 90's the Lions were a decent team...but an enigma...you never knew when they'd win and if you were ever 100% certain that they'd win on a given week...they'd be sure to put you in your place with a loss.
This season...they've won on the road, which they haven't been all that successful at in recent seasons...but they came home from a road trip and promptly lost two in a row at Ford Field.
For all intents and purposes, the playoffs start for the Lions this week. The Leos are 6-3...already 3 games behind the 9-0 Packers in the NFC North. The chances of catching them is slim...even if they still have two head to head games with them coming up. Even if they could win both...they'd still be a game behind.
The Lions chances to make the playoffs exist only as wildcards. Which means their main competition is against Chicago (6-3), Atlanta (5-4, and who we've already lost to, so they have the tie breaker) and Dallas (5-4, who the Lions have already beaten and hold the tie breaker over). Over the next seven weeks, two of these four teams will step up and claim the two wild card spots...and sadly, the Lions have the hardest schedule.
A win against the Panthers is vital to their chances of staying in the race.
Panthers Offense vs Lions Defense
The Panthers offense looks a lot like the Lions offense in this regard...they have a big time QB-WR connection. Cam Newton to Steve Smith has turned out to be one of the most dangerous batteries in the NFL so far this season. While Newton to Smith might pale in relative comparison to what Stafford to Johnson has been able to do this year... On the other hand, even though the Panthers have been unable to single out a go to running threat...they are still averaging almost 30 yards a game more than the Lions on the ground.
Newton loves to put the ball in the air, which means the strength of the Lions (the pass rush) will be put on display. In my opinion, this is the whole game right here.
Panthers Defense vs Lions Offense
The Lions are being hurt by the loss of Jahvid Best. He might not always have been the unstoppable running threat...but he was an all around threat, capable of taking it to the house on any play. He had to be game planned for and he was feared far more than Maurice Morris or...Kevin Smith....
A lot of writers are saying that since Calvin Johnson didn't have a great day against the Bears CB Charles Tillman, a long physical corner, that the Panthers' CB Chris Gamble can have the same results....I don't by this at all. This game will be played in the friendly confines of Ford Field without "40 mph" winds...and Stafford's finger has had another week to heal.
Again, I don't think that Johnson can be stopped. Look for him to get back into the endzone, hopefully at least twice.