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Author: Phillip Kall
NFL Odds: Lions vs. Panthers
Teddy Bridgewater will be a game-time decision against the Lions. His status is something to track throughout Sunday as backup P.J. Walker impressed in the XFL — but there was a reason he was in the XFL.
Bridgewater’s anticipated status has had significant impacts on the spread throughout the week. We saw the line go from Panthers -2.5 on Wednesday when Bridgewater was able to get in a limited practice, down to Panthers +2.5 when the reports on Friday marked him as a game-time decision, with NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reporting that Bridgewater did “basically nothing” in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Whether Bridgewater plays greatly influences the spread and total. We will have to monitor his status on Sunday, but if he does play, playing the over on the total should be the way to go. However, if he is ruled out, back the Lions against the Walker-led Panthers.
Let’s take a closer look at how I arrived at both conclusions.
After gaining a commanding lead of 24-3, the Lions needed a last-second field goal to stave off a Washington comeback as they won 30-27 in Week 10. This game perfectly embodied the Lions, as they have lead in four of their five losses, and three of their four wins have come on a walk-off score.
A defense that ranks fourth-worst in points allowed per game and sixth-worst in yards allowed per game is likely the reason for most of their struggles. Cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah were brought in to help with these issues. However, they’ve done more harm than good, as Trufant has allowed a passer rating of 121.6 when targeted and Okudah is no longer a starter due to his poor play.
While the coverage unit has struggled, the addition of Everson Griffen has brought life to their pass rush. Griffen was able to force six pressures against Washington, which already has him ranked third on the Lions for the whole season, per Pro Football Reference.
Whether it’s a hurt Bridgewater or Walker starting, they will be under pressure, which will make it difficult to take advantage of the Lions coverage unit.
Offensively, the Lions have been struck hard with injuries. They will be without Danny Amendola, Kenny Golladay and D’Andre Swift.
Luckily, they’re facing a Panthers defense that’s gone from bad to worse recently, allowing an average of 33 points and 439 yards over the past four weeks. Things may have gotten even worse for the Panthers, since starting cornerback Donte Jackson is likely to miss Sunday and his replacement, Troy Pride Jr., ranks last in Pro Football Focus’ cornerback grades.
The main weapon who will be available for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will be wide receiver Marvin Jones, who has been able to find his old self, going from 146 yards and one touchdown through the first six weeks to 258 yards and four touchdowns over the previous four.
After a surprising 3-2 start to the season, the Panthers have hit a wall and lost their last five games. Their Week 10 matchup showed how vulnerable the defense is at levels, as the Buccaneers threw for 334 yards and ran for 210 against the Panthers.
The offense has also slowed down since the hot start. The Panthers averaged 400 yards of total offense over the first five games but only 302 over their past five games.
Plugging in Walker could extend those struggles. As Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus addressed in their Week 11 preview podcast, Walker made his name in the XFL by making big plays, but has not consistently graded well at any level.
It’ll be a test to see if Walker can bring that same big playmaking ability to the NFL, and if he can provide those same electric plays how Carolina handles playing a quarterback with that style compared to the conservative style of Bridgewater.
The good news for whoever gets the start is that their receivers should be able to get open against the Lions’ defensive backs. Despite pulling Okudah for his performance, the Lions’ starting corners’ PFF grades rank 70th and 110th out of 119 players at the position. They will be trying to cover the Panthers’ duo of Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore, who rank 25th and 49th out of 118 wide receivers, according to PFF.
Bridgewater’s uncertain status has caused movement in the line throughout the week and makes choosing a particular side difficult. If you can, wait until he is officially ruled in or out before making a pick.
If Bridgewater is cleared to play, neither of these two defenses have shown the ability to stop anyone recently. With the playmakers available on both sides of the ball, the over is the way to go.
If Walker is the starter, however, he will try to recreate some of those plays that made him an XFL sensation. But in the NFL, these can lead to big plays for the defense, and a couple of mistakes will be enough to get the Lions to cover.
If Bridgewater starts, back the over up to 48. If Walker starts, back the Lions down to -3.5.
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Author: Phillip Kall