Well, golly, we hate to be the “told ya so!” guys, but since it’s good news, we may as well go down that road.
Witness, then, words from last week’s Lions-Washington Football Team preview: “If the Lions want to win this game, they should plan on doing it through Swift in every way imaginable.”
Swift, of course, being D’Andre, and “every way imaginable” is exactly what the Lions did, giving the superstar-in-waiting 21 touches, good for 149 total yards and one touchdown. Add in the last-second heroics of kicker Matt Prater, and the Lions beat the “Team” 30-27, and with it, moved their playoff hopes from dim to a shade brighter than dim. Right now, DraftKings has the Lions playoff odds at +725, whereas FanDuel is feeling more bullish, putting them at “only” +580.
Looking at the Lions schedule after this week’s game against the Panthers, it’s not inconceivable that the team could go on a bit of a run: Thanksgiving at home against the Texans, at Chicago, home against the Packers, at an all-of-a-sudden struggling Tennessee, and then home games against the Bucs and Vikings.
But first, the Panthers in Charlotte this Sunday. A winnable game, and the oddsmakers agree, with FanDuel, FOX Bet, and DraftKings all setting the line at Panthers -1.5. FanDuel and FOX Bet, at the time of this writing, are the only books offering the moneyline, with the Lions at +100 on both sites. The over/under is set at 48 on FanDuel, and 47.5 at FOX Bet. One reason some of the books are late to the game is undoubtedly the status of Kenny Golladay.
Golladay, who missed the last two games after injuring his hip in a Week 8 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, was a “limited” participant at Wednesday’s practice, so he’s finally trending in the right direction.
But even if Golladay suits up, and much like last week, if the Lions hope to win this game and claw back to .500, the best bet is to go through one Mr. D’Andre Swift.
Was the baton officially passed last week to Swift? Who knows. But Adrian “Methuselah” Peterson only touched the ball five times, and Kerryon Johnson once. Is it possible the Lions braintrust have finally realized they may have a generational talent on their hands? Shake your Magic 8-Balls and let us know …
Lions are set up to succeed
This week’s game sets up just fine for the Lions, with or without Golladay. The Panthers rank dead last in the NFL in sack percentage at 2.87%, which is good, because the Lions offensive line is leaky, ranking 21st in sack percentage at 6.36%. So Stafford will have a clean pocket to work with.
Secondly, Carolina is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 69.09% of their passes, which is fourth worst in the league. But the Panthers are “only” giving up a middling 6.9 yards per pass attempt. Add it together, the Panthers defense is happy to allow short, high percentage passes, which is exactly what the Lions do pretty darn well. Having Golladay on the field would obviously help stretch the defense, but this is truly a matchup that doesn’t demand Golladay’s talents.
And then there’s Swift.
Carolina’s rushing defense? They’re giving up 124.5 yards a game, ranking 20th in the league, and they’re giving up 4.8 yards per carry, 5th worst in the league. Swift can have his way with this defense, both on the ground and through the air.
The Lions offense, simply put, matches up exceedingly well with the Carolina defense.
Lions defense set to roar
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers offense is on shaky ground. Christian McCaffery will miss a second game with a shoulder injury, Teddy Bridgewater is banged up and might not play, and the Panthers passing game – which is average across most statistical categories – is running into a Lions secondary that is finally getting back to full health.
In short: Despite being road dogs, the Lions seem to have a better matchup on both sides of the ball this week.
This game may also lend itself to a handful of player props when they get released later in the week. Interesting areas might be where Swift’s rushing-plus-receiving number falls; anything under 85 screams value. The over/under on Matthew Stafford’s completions is also something to be watched; fair market should be around 24.5, and if it comes in lower, the buy signal on the “over” feels strong.
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