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Lions at Panthers
Kickoff: 1 p.m., Sunday, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Records: Lions 4-5, Panthers 3-7
Line: Lions by 2.5
Matt Schoch breaks down the Lions’ Week 11 matchup against the Carolina Panthers for The Detroit News:
LIONS PASSING ATTACK VS. CAROLINA PASSING DEFENSE
The Lions will be without wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola, along with running back D’Andre Swift, because of injuries.
In addition, quarterback Matthew Stafford is officially questionable with his thumb injury, though he’s expected to play.
With so many fill-ins, the onus falls on Marvin Jones, Marvin Hall and tight end T.J. Hockenson to pick up the slack.
Subscription: Detroit News predictions: Lions at Panthers
The Panthers start two rookies in the defensive backfield in Notre Dame cornerback Troy Pride Jr. and Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn, who leads all NFL rookies with 69 tackles.
Rookie defensive tackle Derrick Brown, the seventh pick in the NFL Draft out of Auburn, has six tackles for a loss this season. He could be disruptive to the run game and force Detroit into some long third-down passing situations.
Carolina players to watch
►Teddy Bridgewater, QB: For the second straight week, the Lions will face a quarterback who recovered from a gruesome injury to make an inspiring return (if Bridgewater indeed plays). While with Minnesota, Bridgewater was 2-2 in four games against Detroit before a knee injury at practice in 2016 put him out of action for almost two seasons. In his first season back as a full-time starter since then, Bridgewater is second in the NFL with a 72.1% completion percentage.
►DJ Moore, WR: This talented wide receiver’s skills have been somewhat buried in Carolina, where injured running back Christian McCaffrey is king. Moore, picked No. 24 out of Maryland in 2018, leads his draft class in career receptions (181) and receiving yards (2,699). Moore had his first career 100-yard game in 2018 against Detroit.
►Brian Burns, DE: There were a lot of rumors leading up the 2019 NFL Draft the Lions were looking hard at Burns, an edge rusher from Florida State. Burns fell all the way to No. 16 after Detroit drafted Hockenson at No. 7. Burns has three strip sacks this season, tied for third in the NFL. His 25 quarterback pressures are tied for sixth most.
Facts and figures
► The Carolina defense has had trouble getting off the field on key downs. The Panthers have the league’s worst third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 55.3% of the time. Carolina and Tennessee (second-worst at 53.2%) are the league’s only two teams who allow conversions on third time more times than not.
► The wheels have fallen off for the Panthers in five straight losses after a strong start for coach Matt Rhule. The first-four losses were one-possession games before last week’s 46-23 drubbing by Tampa Bay. Bridgewater’s 136 passing yards last week was his fifth-lowest output in 44 career starts.
► Romeo Okwara’s 16.0 career sacks are fourth-most for a Nigerian-born player. The Lions edge rusher is half-a-sack from tying Jeremiah Attaochu of Denver. Okwara grew up as a fan of the Panthers after his family moved from Nigeria to North Carolina in 2005. Okwara starred in high school at Ardrey Kelly, just 18 miles away from Bank of America Stadium. He hasn’t played in Charlotte since high school.
Matt Schoch is a writer for PlayMichigan.com and freelances for The Detroit News.