The Detroit Lions host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday as they look to extend their win streak to three games on the young season. There are plenty of storylines heading into this matchup, and we’ll take a deeper look at some of them here.
Storylines Ahead of Panthers at Lions
Jameson Williams’ Return
Less than 24 hours after the Lions’ dominant win over the Green Bay Packers, the NFL announced that they were changing their gambling policy, including reducing the penalty for prior violations to a four-game suspension. Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams, who was serving a six-game suspension, was reinstated on Monday and is now fully back with the team.
Head coach Dan Campbell has insisted that Williams will be brought along slowly as he gets acclimated, but just having him on the field will do wonders for the Detroit offense. Whether Williams is getting targets from Jared Goff or is being used as a decoy, opposing defenses will have to account for his elite speed and explosiveness, most likely by putting a safety over the top at all times. This will open up the field underneath, allowing guys like Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta to continue to succeed in Detroit’s offense.
There’s a chance St. Brown won’t play on Sunday due to an abdomen injury he suffered in Week 4, and if he can’t go, then Williams would be forced into a bigger role right out of the gate. Regardless, it’ll be fun to watch the Lions incorporate the former first-round pick into an offense that already ranks toward the top of the NFL.
Familiar Faces Back In Detroit
Duce Staley and DJ Chark will make their returns to Detroit after departing this offseason. Staley accepted a similar position with the Panthers that he held in Detroit, stating that he wanted to be closer to his mother who is dealing with health issues. Staley was hired by Dan Campbell back in 2021 to be Detroit’s running backs coach and assistant head coach and had been credited for improving the Lions’ ground game. From 2021 to 2022, Detroit went from averaging 4.42 yards per carry to 4.5 yards per carry, good enough for 15th in the NFL — the Lions’ best finish since 1998.
Chark, who played just a season with the Lions, battled injuries throughout the year but was still productive when active. He had 30 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games for Detroit. Chark has played in three games for the Panthers this season while nursing a hamstring injury, but he’s already become one of rookie quarterback Bryce Young‘s favorite targets and trails only Adam Thielen in receiving yards for Carolina.
Detroit Will Be Looking For Revenge
Sunday’s game will mean a little more to the Lions, who will look to avenge their loss to Carolina a season ago. Amidst the Lions’ furious 8-2 finish in their final 10 games, they had a letdown in Week 16 when they fell to the Panthers 37-23. Despite finishing the year with two more wins to get to 9-8, they fell short of the postseason, and the loss to Carolina was ultimately the reason why. Playing a winless team can cause some concern for fans: Is Detroit due for a letdown? Will they play down to their competition? Carolina’s due, could they pull of an upset? While unlikely, all of it’s possible. If Detroit needs some extra motivation for Sunday’s contest, they should look no further than last year’s loss.
Detroit will look to take care of business at home on Sunday and further distance themselves in the NFC North before they head south to take on the first-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6.
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