Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Lions center Frank Ragnow missed practice on Tuesday with a foot injury after a week of limited showings leading to a questionable tag last week.
- There are two divisions that could provide a playoff team with a losing record – the AFC South, with Tennessee currently leading the division at 7-7 but down the current tiebreaker to Jacksonville who is one game back; and the NFC South, with Carolina one game behind Tampa Bay (6-8) with the current head-to-head tiebreaker in hand.
- The Lions have played their way into playoff contention by ripping off six wins in their last seven games, currently just a half game behind the Commanders for the seventh and final playoff spot.
- As in, these two teams still have everything left to play for.
- The Panthers own the league’s slowest first half pace of play.
- The Panthers run the fewest offensive plays per game this year at just 56.6 while the Lions are averaging 70.4 per game over their last five (since they transitioned their offense to a more aggressive unit during this run of desperation) — that difference is the equivalent of about 2.5 possessions in today’s game.
How detroit Will Try To Win ::
The Lions have fundamentally altered the way they are trying to win games over the previous month of play, with quarterback Jared Goff averaging 38.75 pass attempts per game over that span (compared to a season average of 34.5). The big difference in this team is that they are now operating from a sense of urgency and desperation, not waiting for the opponent to push them to be more aggressive through the air and instead pushing the tempo and aggression from start to finish, putting teams away in the process and attempting to leave nothing to chance. Another clear shift in the identity of this offense has been a move to a three-headed backfield including D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and Justin Jackson, which has remained steady ever since Swift returned from three missed games in Week 8. Detroit continues to operate from 11-personnel as their base personnel alignment but has moved to a three-way timeshare at tight end after the mid-season departure of T.J. Hockenson. The addition of rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams, combined with the emergence of Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond, has meant that all three have filtered through for the WR3 role behind Amon-Ra St. Brown and D.J. Chark. Basically, expect St. Brown and Chark to operate as the only near every-down skill position players moving forward, until or unless further injuries reemerge.
As mentioned above, the shift to a three-headed backfield has kept the workloads in check for Swift and Williams, with just one instance of 20 or more running back opportunities between the two over the previous five weeks. The likeliest scenario lands Williams in the 16-18 running back opportunity range and Swift in the 15-17 range, with a clear slight boost to the expected receiving work for D’Andre Swift against a Panthers defense that runs zone coverage at a top three rate this season. For further context, 76% of Swift’s targets this season have come against zone whilst the Lions have faced the third highest rate of man coverage on offense this year. Furthermore, the three games with the highest target totals for Swift have come against the Jets, Bills, and Jaguars, three teams that run zone at elevated rates, are top eight in adjusted line yards against the run on defense, and force teams primarily to the short-to-intermediate areas of the field (like the Panthers). The pure rushing matchup yields a slightly above average 4.44 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Carolina defense ceding 23.9 DK points per game to opposing backfields.
Amon-Ra St. Brown has seen eight or more targets in every game in which he has played more than 80% of the offensive snaps dating back to Week 12 of the 2021 season. That is absurd consistency. That said, his laughably low 6.0 average depth of target and modest 23.8% air yards share has meant he required both efficiency and touchdowns in order to return a GPP-viable score, particularly considering his now-elevated salary (he has returned a 4x salary multiplier on his Week 16 salary just twice in 15 games this season). D.J. Chark has a weekly range of targets in the five to seven realm, with zero double-digit target games this year while playing alongside target hog St. Brown. The transition to an offense utilizing three wide receivers to fill the WR3 spot, a three-back rotation, and a three-tight end rotation has left volume difficult to predict on a weekly basis behind those top two pass-catchers, with the caveat that this particular matchup favors a slight boost to the target expectation of D’Andre Swift.