On Sunday, the Detroit Lions (3-1) look to continue their winning ways against the Carolina Panthers (0-4), a team they should dominate. The Lions come into the game as 9.5-point favorites and have won two games in a row. Carolina is still trying to establish an identity and is experiencing the growing pains of relying on #1 overall pick Bryce Young, who has struggled in his introductory season in the NFL. Here's how the teams stack up for the upcoming matchup.
Detroit Lions offense vs. Carolina's defense
On the surface, this really is a David vs. Goliath matchup on Sunday – as Lions fans though we're looking for a different outcome than the biblical story. The Lions are a top-5 team, both offensively and defensively according to DVOA, while the Panthers are a bottom-feeder in the same category.
Lions rushing attack vs. Panthers run defense
The Lions come into this matchup as the fourth-best run blocking team according to PFF, while the Panthers' run defense ranks 29th. And, while we can't just bank on historical numbers to determine the outcome of future events, it is a pretty good indicator of which way the field slants on Sunday. David Montgomery and rookie Jamyr Gibbs should be able to get loose and put the game on ice from Jump Street. Monty is third in the league in touchdowns with five through the first four games; he's 12th in rushing yards (262) and has a rushing grade of 71.9, the 18th-best in the league.
For their part, the Panthers bring up the rear statistically. They allow 4.7 yards per rushing attempt and average 136.3 yards on the ground per game. This game could move quickly if the Lions can establish dominance on the ground, something they like to do rushing the ball 49.82% of their offensive snaps. This is a perfect game for the Lions to get Gibbs as many touches as possible and potentially have his first breakout game as the Lions' top pick in the previous draft.
Lions passing game vs. Panthers secondary
Jared Goff could have a massive day, though should the run game succeed the Lions won't need it. Goff for his part is graded out as the third-best passer in the NFL (83.7) through the first four games and is still looking to improve. The Panthers pass rush is the best aspect of their team, with Brian Burns being their best option to get to Goff. Jameson Williams' season debut will be a sight to behold (hopefully!) and Goff will need to break his streak of three straight games with an interception, but the ball should be flying all around with a big day looming for the Lions air raid.
Detroit Lions defense vs. Carolina's struggling offense
The biggest question for the Lions coming into the 2023 season was their defense. Had they made enough moves in the offseason to improve? And, while they improved over the course of the final few games in 2022, they were still very much a question mark. Save for the Seattle Seahawks game, they've been really good. They are a top ten defense according to PFF Grades and DVOA. A welcomed sight in Motown.
Lions run stoppers vs. Carolina's ground game
Look, the biggest question mark and “hole” heading into the 2023 season was the Lions' defensive interior line play. And, not to bring up old wounds, but last year during this exact matchup things in the run game did not go swimmingly. But this season is very different through four games.
Lions secondary vs. Rookie QB and passing attack
With the injury to C.J. Gardner-Johnson, it seemed the Lions were in trouble. But with Emmanuel Moseley being worked into the rotation this week and Tracy Walkers' return, the secondary is primed for improvement. Not to mention that they'll be facing a rookie QB, who has struggled to say the least this season. Bryce Young, the top pick in this past year's draft, ranks 40th in PFF Passing Grades, which by simple math tells you he's even worse than some backups around the league. With the ability to get to the quarterback through their front seven, the Lions should make Young really uncomfortable and make it a very long day.
The numbers look really good, but they are just numbers and the game has to be played. Yet, the Lions should be able to control both sides of the ball and shouldn't have too much of a problem getting their third win in a row. This is the type of game that the good teams win but isn't one that can just be overlooked on the schedule. Expect the Lions to dominate statistically and win by a score of 34-10.