The Detroit Lions’ improbable run continues, and they have now balanced their season record at 7-7 after going on a 6-1 win streak. Next up for them is a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Panthers, who despite a 5-9 record, are just one game back in the NFC South.
With both teams still in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs—Lions targeting the Wild Card round, while it’s division or bust for the Panthers—the good folks over at DraftKings Sportsbook have set the opening betting line and are favoring the Lions by 3 points.
The Panthers have had a rollercoaster of a year. In the offseason, coach Matt Rhule, in his never-ending quest to find a quarterback, traded for Baker Mayfield to compete with Sam Darnold, whom Rhule traded for the season prior, and PJ Walker in hopes that one of them could take them to the next level. Instead, the Panthers would start the season 1-4, and after two and a half seasons as their coach, Rhule was fired, Steve Wilks was named interim coach, and Mayfield was benched.
Within the next few weeks, the Panthers began to trade away their offensive assets, dealing wide receiver Robbie Anderson to the Cardinals and running back Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers, resulting in a 3-7 record by mid-November.
Heading into their game against the Ravens, starting quarterback Walker was injured and the team turned back to Mayfield, who once again fell short of expectations. The following week, Wilks turned to Darnold (who was now recovered from an ankle injury) and he led the Panthers to a victory over the Broncos. Heading into the bye, it was clear the team wanted to stick with Darnold, Walker looked ready to be the backup, and in a “mutual agreement” the Panthers released Mayfield.
Coming out of their bye, Darnold helped lead the Panthers to their fifth win on the season, besting the Seahawks 30-24 in Seattle, but they came back to earth this past Sunday, losing 24-16 to a Mitch Trubisky-led Steelers at home.
Yet, despite a 5-9 record, the Panthers remain very much in the hunt for their division because every team in the NFC South has a losing record—and the Panthers are sitting second, just a game behind the Buccaneers.
So will the incredibly hot Detroit team be able to take advantage of an up-and-down Panthers team, or will Carolina be motivated enough by their playoff chances to hold off the surging Lions?
It’s going to be another fun week.