Yesterday I took a look at the offense of the Panthers and how they would fair against a stout Lions D. Today we're looking at the other side of the ball. The defense and special teams are the reason Carolina only have two wins right now. The offense hasn't been reliably supported and as such the team has faltered as a result. At times it seemed last week like McDermott's group was putting it all together, but there were more foolish errors in execution that turned the game sour.
X-Factor: Chris Gamble
We have to live with the fact that Gamble will never get the attention of the masses due to his no-nonsense, demure approach to the NFL, he doesn't look to be flashy but he shuts down WRs every single week. Gamble has shut down Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings and Roddy White to name a few and this week he gets his shot at Megatron. This is without a doubt the hardest test he'll face, but it's really hard to bet against Gamble right now. If he's in man coverage with Johnson then I think he'll fair very well against him.
I have no doubt Detroit fans will scream 'rabble, rabble, rabble' but the fact is, Chris Gamble is playing as well as any cornerback in the NFL right now and advanced metric sites have shown this. When it's all said and done I think we see a great duel between these two, but it ends with both hands being raised.
Carolina run defense vs. Detroit run offense
Carolina haven't been able to stop the run, and Detroit haven't really been able to run... it's a match made in heaven! With the exception of a single 88 yard run Jahvid Best is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and Maurice Morris has actually proved himself to be the more reliable back in 2011. Best appears to be missing the game tomorrow as he still deals with lingering effects of a concussion so it's Morris we'll see for much of the game.
The Panthers can't stop the run, they haven't all year and wont start doing so now. We know what makes this up, rookie DTs and starting LBs on IR so I don't need to keep singing the same song. In a battle of ineptitude there are no winners.
Carolina pass defense vs. Detroit pass offense
Despite the main match-up being a push between Calvin Johnson and Chris Gamble it's this facet of the game we see some separation. Between Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler the Lions have more weapons than the Panthers have reliable players to cover them. A lot will be asked of the defensive ends to apply pressure to Matthew Stafford in the hopes he'll make ill advised decisions, and there's a chance he good. Last week Stafford looked flappable in the face of pressure as he threw four interceptions.
When it's all said and done I think this is the aspect that will lose the game for Carolina, not being able to cover everyone on the field. If we could clone Chris Gamble we'd be in good shape, but outside of that there's not enough talent in the secondary to cover everyone.
The Lions are a deeper, more talented team... at least for right now. I have no doubt in 2-3 years this game is a very different story, but more right now it's going to be tough. The Panthers are facing an extremely good defense in a hostile stadium and on the other side of the ball they face an explosive passing offense.
While I'd love to pick Carolina to win, ultimately I feel like it would be far too much of a homer pick to do so with any conviction.
Detroit 27 - Carolina 17