The Carolina Panthers (2-7) and Detroit Lions (6-3) may have differing records, but these two teams are currently heading in the same direction. Carolina is coming off a disappointing loss to Tennessee in which Cam Newton was flustered through much of the afternoon, and Detroit was embarrassed in Chicago losing by 24 points.
Both teams are looking to rebound in a big way, but only one team will leave Ford Field happy and that will be the visiting Panthers.
Matthew Stafford is coming off a game where he threw four interceptions. But Stafford isn't even the biggest problem for the Lions right now. No, it's the loss of Jahvid Best and the threat of a running game.
By no means was Best a dominant force running the football, but he could catch the ball out of the backfield and was a threat to break a long run. With him shelved due to a concussion, the Lions will be hard pressed to run on one of the league's worst run defenses.
The key to beating the Panthers has been running the football as the pass defense has been solid through most of the season, although that could be due to teams focusing on running the football. Still, cornerback Chris Gamble is having an outstanding season and should be up to the task of slowing down Calvin Johnson.
Stopping Johnson will prove to be difficult but slowing him down is something that the Panthers must do. Stafford will target his favorite receiver early and often so Gamble and Co. better be on their heels.
On the offensive side, the Panthers will have an opportunity to rely on the running game for a change. The Lions rank 27th in stopping the run this season and will have the tall task of containing Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.
Without a strong rushing performance from the duo the Panthers can't win. The Lions possess a dominating pass rush and will feast on Newton if he is forced to drop back and throw on a consistent basis. This is a week that Carolina should give Newton's right arm a bit of a break and rely on the legs of the running backs.
When the Panthers do throw the likely targets will be Greg Olsen and Steve Smith. The Lions boast an impressive pass defense, but the Panthers have one of the NFL's best passing attacks. It will be the most interesting matchup of the game, although the final result will come down to the running game.
That's why the Panthers will walk out of Ford Field winners. Behind Stewart and Williams, Carolina will be able to control the clock and keep the Lions' offense off the field.
Stafford is battling a right finger injury and the Lions as a whole haven't looked nearly as good as they did early on in the season. Carolina's Achilles' heel has been stopping the run all season, but Lions don't have the weapons in the backfield to run on the Panthers.
Prediction: Panthers 31, Lions 27