With the first quarter of the season in the books, the Carolina Panthers head to Detroit with an eye toward the top spot in the NFC. After a heartbreaking loss to the Falcons in Week 3, the Detroit Lions are hoping to get their second home victory of the season.
Here are 10 things I think I know heading into Week 4 against the Panthers:
1. I think the pass offense really struggled last Sunday and needs to find a rhythm. After Sunday’s win the Lions are now 8-7 versus the Vikings with Matthew Stafford at the helm, not that QB wins are a stat I put too much into. Stafford was far from perfect, almost throwing several interceptions and taking six sacks.
The offensive gameplan was clearly similar to the one they showed against the Giants—run the ball well, win time of possession, and pass when necessary. The Lions offense did enough to win the game, but they are far from playing their best football.
According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics, the Lions have the first ranked special teams unit, the fifth ranked defense, and the 21st ranked offense. Clearly, if there’s one spot the Lions can improve on, it’s offense.
2. I think 3-1 is terrific start—even if they should be 4-0. If you’d have asked me at the beginning of the year what record I would hope for after the first quarter, I would have said 2-2.
Both the Cardinals and Giants were being hyped as potential playoff contenders. The Falcons are reigning NFC champions. And the Vikings looked outstanding until Sam Bradford got injured in the first week.
My how things change after just a month.
3. I think Matthew Stafford’s ironman streak isn’t something to take for granted. After missing six games his rookie season and 13 more his second year, it’s kind of amazing how durable he’s been since. Stafford started his 100th consecutive game on Sunday against the Vikings.
In his last 100 regular season starts, Stafford has thrown for over 28,000 yards, a completion rate over 62 percent, a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio, and a quarterback rating of 89.5.
As a wise man (my dad) once said, “Not bad for a ‘China doll’.”
4. I think the Panther’s offense isn’t as good as they showed on Sunday against the Patriots. Through the first four weeks, the Patriots have had the worst defense in the league by nearly every measurable statistic. So I’m not sure how much I believe Carolina quarterback Cam Newton when he says last Sunday’s game was “breakthrough game” for the Panthers on offense.
The Panthers are 3-1 and come to town this week looking to remain atop the NFC South. We’ll get a first hand look if the Panthers offense is for real or if the Patriots defense is just really bad.
5. I think I was upset that the Lions pulled Ameer Abdullah late in the game. That is, until I saw what happened to Seahawks running back Chris Carson on Sunday night. Carson suffered leg fracture late in the game with Seattle sitting on a hefty lead.
Zach Zenner was unsuccessful late in the game, and looking back, I’m not sure Abdullah would have been any better. The offensive line was getting pushed back before the ball was in the runner’s hands. The Lions need Abdullah to be healthy all season, not just a quarter of it.
6. I think I love T.J. Lang, and his honesty.
Lang said he gutted out the win on adrenaline. Asked when he starts to feel pain after a game: "Depends on how many beers I have." https://t.co/WTcLDHAof6— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) October 1, 2017
7. I think Anthony Zettel is the real deal. When Kerry Hyder went down in the preseason, everyone knew someone else was going to have to step up. Zettel has stepped up and then some.
Through the first quarter of the year, Zettel has the second highest pass rush productivity rating in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Your weekly reminder that no edge defender has been more productive on a per snap basis so far this year than DeMarcus Lawrence pic.twitter.com/ZGPNGcJiOO— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 3, 2017
8. I think the Panthers secondary could be attacked on Sunday after safety Kurt Coleman suffered an MCL sprain last Sunday. Carolina has since signed former Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints safety Jairus Byrd to fill in for Coleman.
It’s never a good sign when you are forced to start a street free agent, even if he’s a former Pro Bowl player like Byrd.
9. I think the Lions are going to struggle to get the run game going against Carolina. The Panthers are tied for eighth in the NFL against the run. Opposing offenses are only averaging 87.3 yards per game.
Lions fans may have to wait another week for a 100-yard rusher.
10. I think the Lions will be 4-1 after this weekend. If this game was on the road it would be a tougher call, but I like the Lions’ chances at Ford Field. The early Vegas line favors the Lions for the first time this year, and the Lions are currently three-point favorites over Panthers.