The Detroit Lions are no longer a losing team with a losing record. After outlasting the New York Jets 20-17, the Lions find themselves 7-7 with an outside shot at making the postseason in just Dan Campbell's second year. Up next is a battle with the Carolina Panthers, and if the Lions want to improve to 8-7, they need to keep it simple with these three keys to victory.
What are the keys to victory for the Detroit Lions?
Continue the Ground Assault
For the first time since 1997, the Detroit Lions have a running game. No, I know it's crazy, but they really do have a real running game. The Lions rank in the top half of the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and have hit at least 80 yards on the ground in every game this season. This is a key component of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Ride the horse that brought you. Jamaal Williams, D'Andre Swift, Justin Jackson, and Craig Reynolds have been a formidable foursome all year. Not to mention the Carolina Panthers have one of the worst rushing defenses in the league this year.
The Lions' offensive line has been good as of late. Taylor Decker has gone 8 straight games without allowing a sack, and 6 straight games without committing a penalty. So, back to KISS, trust your offensive line to do their jobs, and let that running game cook.
Detroit Lions Defense Needs to Pressure Sam Darnold
The Carolina Panthers have seen quite a few names play QB this year. From Baker Mayfield to PJ Walker, and then back to last year's starter, Sam Darnold. Darnold is not known for his calm under pressure, and there's a reason he has almost as many interceptions as he does touchdowns in his career.
Detroit's defense has definitely improved over the last six weeks, and with Carolina lacking in pass-catching weapons, you can expect the Panthers to want to control the clock with the run game with D'Onta Foreman, Chuba Hubbard, and rookie Raheem Blackshear. Shut that down, and they will be forced to pass.
And while the Lions' secondary is nothing to brag about, their front line has been a force to be reckoned with since James Houston joined the fray. Houston is just the third player since 1982, to record at least one sack in his first four games. Add in the fact that Aidan Huchinson has been basically everything Detroit has hoped he would be, and you've got yourself a dangerous defensive front. So again, KISS, let the front seven do their jobs, and trust in Darnold to be who he is, and the Detroit Lions should win the turnover battle. Speaking of turnovers…
Limit the Mistakes on Offense
Whether you like or dislike Jared Goff as the starting QB for the Detroit Lions, one thing has been clear over the past six weeks; Goff has taken care of the football. And that needs to continue if the Lions are going to keep winning.
He has the pass-catching weapons in Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, Jameson Williams, and Kalif Raymond, and of course the fearsome foursome at running back. Detroit has plenty in its arsenal to rack up enough points to win comfortably against the Panthers, but they have to continue to take care of the football, to avoid giving Carolina extra chances to claw back into the game.
If Goff can continue to avoid throwing into double and triple coverage, go through his progressions and find the open man, and if said open man can catch and hold onto the football, the Lions should win this game by double digits. I'm shocked I can say this with a straight face, but that's where we are with these Brand New Lions.