Here we are in December of the 2022 NFL season and the Detroit Lions are within sniffing distance of a playoff spot. On Christmas Eve, they travel to Carolina this weekend to take on the Carolina Panthers, a 5-9 team that still has viability in the debilitated NFC South. With the Lions, in essence, controlling their own destiny, it's time for a Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers bold predictions.
Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers bold predictions
With six victories in their last seven games, the kook-aid pouring is strong in Detroit, and for good reason. The team went toe-to-toe with the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving, and have beaten lesser teams, the ones they should beat, for those six wins. As referenced in our Inside the Numbers, the Lions have a clear edge in this game and should come away with a victory. With that said, let's make some predictions.
1 The defense will set the tone early
At the beginning of this current win streak, the Lions faced the Jacksonville Jaguars and put them in their place from jump street. It's what better teams are supposed to do to lesser teams. Carolina currently ranks 17th in rushing yards per game and 30th in passing yards per game, and while their offensive line grades out well from PFF (6th) in pass protection, the Lions' defense will create havoc and set the tone. Whether it is a stiff three-and-out or a turnover, they will set the tone.
2 Jamaal Williams will tie Barry Sanders' single-season touchdown record
Listen, I don't really know how to feel about this and I'm sure you don't either. But, this seems inevitable. Jamaal has been nothing but steady for the Lions this year, especially when D'Andre Swift was out for a couple of weeks. Having the best season of his career, Williams has scored 14 touchdowns, just two shy of the legend's mark.
He had the chance to add to that total last week but was stuffed at the one-yard line. This week, let's say that Jamaal opens the scoring on the Lions' first drive, then seals the win in the fourth quarter with his second score of the game as he plays an integral part in returning the struggling Lions' rushing attack back on track.
3 Pro Bowler Brian Burns will get shut down by two Pro Bowl snubs
These are bold predictions, right? So we're going to go bold. Burns has only totaled half a sack in the previous two games and was named to the Pro Bowl earlier this week. The Lions' offensive line has not given up a sack since week 12. Taylor Decker has been playing very well, with some of his highest grades coming since Week 10. Penei Sewell is right behind him in production and has really come into his own in his sophomore campaign. Expect these two, non-Pro Bowlers, to shut down the Pro Bowler for the third straight game.
4 Jared Goff will get the “road game” bug out of his system
Jared Goff has been playing pretty well lately. He's been playing smart and not turning the ball over, but this season his performance at home against his performance on the road is a bit puzzling. At home this season, Goff is 189/290 for 2,217 yards (277 per game), 20 touchdowns, three INTs, and a QBR of 105.7. However, on the road, it's a bit different: 124/192 for 1,387 yards (231 per game), three touchdowns, three INTS, and a QBR of 83.07.
The Panthers are the 25th-best coverage team according to PFF, and the 26th-best pass rush defense. Given the Lions' offensive line, and the seemingly lacking prowess on defense, expect Jared Goff to carry the offense. There's no reason for Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, and D.J. Chark can find ways to get very involved in the offense this Saturday and give the Carolina Panthers a headache.
5 The Lions will be in the playoffs after this game
Okay, I know that “officially” the Lions cannot be in the playoffs immediately after the game, but when Week 16 wraps, The Lions will be ahead of the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Commanders in the standings. Currently, the Lions sit behind them due to the Commanders' tie with the New York Giants and their own loss the Seattle who holds the tie-breaker over them. However, come Monday, that won't matter. The Commanders square off against the Brock Purdy's from San Francisco on Sunday afternoon and Seattle has the Chiefs on Saturday night. Safe to say, a “win and they're in” for the Lions is in short order this weekend.