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Five things to watch vs. Detroit: Last regular-season home game


CHARLOTTE – The Panthers close their regular-season home schedule with a Christmas Eve matchup.

Carolina (5-9) hosts the Lions (7-7) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Bank of America Stadium, looking to bounce back from a deflating loss at home to Pittsburgh last week.

Detroit has won six of its last seven games after starting the season 1-6, and a playoff berth could be in the picture if the Lions keep winning. The Panthers are also playing for playoff chances, as a Carolina victory could set up next week's game at Tampa Bay as a pivotal one for the NFC South crown.

Here are five things to watch in Week 16:


Lions quarterback Jared Goff has Detroit's offense clicking, ranked fourth in the NFL in total offense, tied for fifth in scoring, and third in the red zone.

Detroit's offensive line has also protected Goff, tied for first in sacks allowed. That poses a challenge for now-two-time Pro Bowler Brian Burns, who hasn't come down with a full sack in two weeks after breaking his career-best mark with 2.0 against Denver's Russell Wilson. Burns' 10.5 sacks are tied for 10th in the league.

Goff leads a high-powered offense when things are going well with the league's eighth-ranked passing offense. The Lions are led by wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown's 89 receptions (tied for sixth in the NFL) and 974 receiving yards. He has had 50 catches since Week 10, second in the league behind Minnesota's Justin Jefferson.

Detroit's run game is fourteenth in the league, paced by Jamaal Williams' career-best 839 rush yards this year. Williams leads the NFL with 14 rushing touchdowns this year. D'Andre Swift is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, ranked fourth among running backs with at least 70 carries.

The Panthers have held opponents to 17.2 points per game since Week 10, and they're ranked fourth in the league with that mark. Detroit has scored 30.2 points per game in that same span, third in the NFL.


The Panthers' offense had been winning games through their effort in the ground game, but the Steelers found a way to stop it last week.

Carolina rushed for a season-low 21 rush yards last week after putting up 223 just one week before at Seattle. The Panthers are still ranked 17th in the league in rushing offense compared to Detroit's 26th-ranked rushing defense.

Carolina will need to establish dominance up front with D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard to find success offensively, as the rush game has been the Panthers' strong point since interim coach Steve Wilks took over in Week 6.

Wilks said he opted to practice in full pads this week (using up the last of three practices in full pads allotted in the season's last seven weeks, per the collective bargaining agreement) to instill a physical mindset for the Detroit game.


Quarterback Sam Darnold will get his fourth straight start since coming in for the Denver game after his preseason high ankle sprain. He hasn't thrown an interception in his three starts this year, and the Panthers haven't turned the ball over since Week 12 against the Broncos.

But the Lions have had at least one takeaway in 13 straight games, the longest active streak in the league.

On the other side, Goff ranks in the top 10 in pass touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating this year, and he has gone six straight games without a pick, the longest active streak in the NFL.

The Panthers are 28th in the league with 14 takeaways on the year, and they didn't get one against Pittsburgh last week.


Wilks didn't offer a definite answer on whether veteran return specialist Andre Roberts would be back for the Lions game. The Panthers designated him for return on Tuesday, opening the 21-day window to reactivate him to the 53-man roster.

The 34-year-old wide receiver was placed on injured reserve back in September with a knee issue. He played in Week 1 against Cleveland, taking two kickoffs for 35 yards and a punt return for 10.

Roberts, a three-time All-Pro selection, came into the season with 8,578 combined return yards, the most by any player since 2010.

Rookie Raheem Blackshear has been handling kickoffs as of late, with Shi Smith taking the job on punts. The Panthers are ranked seventh in the NFL in kickoff return average and 22nd in punt return average.


The weather could set a record at Bank of America Stadium.

Forecasts predict potential high temperatures in the low 30s, with wind chills dipping below 20 degrees on Saturday.

The Panthers' coldest home game on record was on Jan. 3, 2010, when a game against the New Orleans Saints kicked off at 30 degrees.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Detroit, 7-3.

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