Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) walks off the field after being injured on a sack against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Anthony Nelson (98) rushes Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Charlotte , N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Matthew Stafford has earned a reputation for being tough and playing through injuries.
The Detroit Lions are going to need their franchise quarterback to be tough - and to stay on the field - if they hope to rebound from a 4-5 start and make a run at the NFC playoffs.
If the Lions are going to make a run, it probably needs to happen now.
Detroit is preparing to face three struggling teams in the Panthers, Texans and Bears, given them a golden opportunity to build some momentum heading into the final four games of the season.
First up is Carolina, which will be without star running back Christian McCaffrey and possibly quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is dealing with a knee sprain. If Bridgewater sits out the Panthers will turn to either Will Grier or P.J. Walker, who have two combined starts between them at quarterback.
But Lions coach Matt Patricia isn't going to overlook Carolina regardless of who is playing QB.
''Carolina is going to be ready to go,'' Patricia said. ''It's a copycat league. There's things that come up in the game that are going to show up in the next game or a couple games down the road. So we have to get that stuff cleaned up and try to improve. For us, we just try to stay within the week and make sure we're focused on that because I think if you looked outside of that, you can just get distracted.''
Stafford is dealing with an injury of his own.
He injured his right thumb in the first half of Detroit's 30-27 win over Washington last Sunday, but went on to throw for 276 yards and three touchdowns. X-rays were negative. Stafford rested the thumb on Wednesday, but returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday.
Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye said Stafford looked good in practice and appeared as if he hadn't missed a beat.
Bridgewater said Thursday he's not sure if he'll be ready to play.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule said while the QB is making throws in practice, he hasn't tested out his mobility.
''I don't know what we will do until he does,'' Rhule said Thursday. ''We are trying to be smart about when to do that. He's preparing as if he's going to play. If we get to Sunday and he feels like he can play, then we are going to play him.''
McCAFFREY NOT EXPECTED TO PLAY
Bridgewater's injury is even more concerning considering the Panthers will again be without running back Christian McCaffrey, their top offensive playmaker. McCaffrey will miss his eighth game of the season because of an injury - the past two because of a sprained AC joint in his shoulder.
McCaffrey has been effective when he plays, averaging 124.7 yards from scrimmage and scoring six touchdowns. The Panthers have struggled in the red zone without him.
Mike Davis would get the start for McCaffrey. Davis has totaled 675 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns in 2020, but hasn't been as effective in his past four starts for the Panthers.
SWIFT DEALING WITH CONCUSSION
Detroit drafted D'Andre Swift in the second round this year and he appeared to emerge as the team's No. 1 running back last week after gaining a season-high 149 yards from scrimmage in his first NFL start. Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said days later that the pecking order in the backfield was made clear to 35-year-old Adrian Peterson.
However, Swift was added to the injury report with a concussion on Thursday and did not practice, leaving his playing status for Sunday up in the air. Peterson and Kerryon Johnson would get extra work if Swift is held out.
Swift had 81 yards rushing and season highs with 16 carries and 68 yards receiving and matched a season high with five receptions, including a short one he turned into a 15-yard score, in the win over Washington. The former Georgia star has 331 yards rushing, is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and has four touchdowns along with 31 catches for 275 and two more scores.
Detroit defensive end Everson Griffen, acquired last month in a trade with Dallas, had his first sack in his second game with the Lions against Washington. He also made a pivotal play that didn't show up in the box score, helping stop a reverse without making a tackle.
''Everson has a tremendous amount of energy,'' Patricia said of Everson, who has 3 1/2 sacks in nine games this season and 78 in his career, ranking 15th among active players.
THIRD DOWN WOES
The Panthers' defense has really struggled getting off the field on third downs.
Carolina is allowing opponents to convert a league-high 55.3% of third down chances. Last week Tom Brady converted 10 of 16 third down chances and the Buccaneers piled up 30 first downs in all in a 46-23 drubbing of the Panthers.
''We (stink) in that department,'' Panthers cornerback Rasul Douglas said. ''We haven't been able to do it, while we as a defense have to find a way to do it. I think the coaches are putting us in positions to get off the field and we're not doing it, myself included.''
WATCH THE FAKE
The Panthers have tried a fake punt in each of the past three games, with two of those resulting in first downs. However, last week's attempt didn't fool anyone as punter Joe Charlton was sacked for a 5-yard loss on a fourth-and-5 giving the Buccaneers the ball at the Carolina 40.
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 13
The New York Giants placed starting outside linebacker Kyle Fackrell (calf) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday with a calf injury. Fackrell will miss at least the next three games, leaving the Giants very short-handed at the position. He was tied for second on the team with three sacks and was playing close to 100 percent of the defensive snaps before suffering the injury in the Week 12 win over the Bengals. No outside linebacker on the active roster has more than one sack this year. Linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are also on IR. Jamaal Sheard and rookies Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown could start in Week 13 against the Seahawks, making the New York defense one to avoid for fantasy managers after they were a popular streaming defense against Cincy.
The Denver Broncos activated quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday after all three had PCR tests come back negative on Monday. They will all be eligible to play in Week 13 against the Chiefs. So barring additional team discipline, the Broncos won't be forced to use a practice-squad wide receiver under center against their division rivals. If Lock returns as the starter for this offense, it'll be excellent news for receivers Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler and tight end Noah Fant. Denver will likely be forced to throw often to keep up with the Chiefs high-octane offense, too, but Lock's inconsistency this season keeps him as a low-end QB2. The 24-year-old was 24-for-40 for 254 yards and two interceptions in the first meeting against KC back in Week 7.
The Atlanta Falcons placed wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (toe) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday after he left the Week 12 win over the Raiders with a toe injury. In a corresponding move, the team activated receiver Laquon Treadwell from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and added him to the 53-man roster. Zaccheaus popped up for a couple decent games this year, but it his production was inconsistent on a weekly basis and he was too far down the team's receiving depth chart to be a viable fantasy option in most leagues. The second-year wideout's best game came in Week 9 against the Broncos when he had four receptions for 103 yards and his first touchdown of the season. If he doesn't make it back this year, he'll finish with 20 receptions (32 targets) for 274 yards and the one touchdown. Christian Blake and Brandon Powell could see some more playing time as the No. 4 wideout with Zaccheaus out.
Baltimore Ravens running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram II are both eligible to be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list prior to the Week 12 game against the Steelers on Wednesday, but it's not a given that either will play. Both players have been isolated since testing positive for the virus on Nov. 22 and aren't allowed to fly on the team plane on Tuesday night. At this point, if you have Dobbins or Ingram on your roster, you've likely benched them for other running backs that already played in Week 12. Even if they both play, Gus Edwards could see the majority of backfield touches and will be the best fantasy play of the trio. Those that picked up Edwards in order to start him this week are hoping that neither Dobbins nor Ingram suit up in the tough matchup against the undefeated Steelers.
The Baltimore Ravens activated defensive tackle Brandon Williams, quarterback Trace McSorley, nickelback Tavon Young and cornerback Khalil Dorsey from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. They could activate more players from the list before kickoff against the Steelers on Wednesday. McSorley should be the backup to Robert Griffin III on Wednesday with Lamar Jackson testing positive for COVID-19 and being unavailable this week. The return of Williams will be good news for Baltimore's defensive line, who will again be without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell. The Ravens Defense is more of a gamble in DFS and season-long leagues against the undefeated Steelers, but inclement weather is expected and could make things tougher on both offenses.
Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (ankle) is 'just kind of beat up,' according to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Fantasy Spin: Cook briefly left the Week 12 game against the Carolina Panthers but returned to finish with 83 total yards and 22 touches. He leads the league with 1,385 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns on the season. The Vikings' schedule gets much tougher following the Week 13 home date against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he'll remain a matchup-proof RB1 due to his heavy usage.
San Francisco 49ers DT D.J. Jones, DE Jordan Willis and practice squad TE Daniel Helm will be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and practice Thursday, Dec. 3, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Los Angeles Chargers TE Matt Sokol and DB Jaylen Watkins were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Las Vegas Raiders LB Vic Beasley, PK Dominik Eberle, DE David Irving and DE Chris Smith were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Houston Texans WR Chad Hansen, DT Corey Liuget, WR Steven Mitchell Jr. and WR Damion Ratley were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Terry Godwin, DB Josh Nurse, DT Caraun Reid and PK Aldrick Rosas were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Dallas Cowboys DB Deante Burton, OT Jordan Mills, DB Rashard Robinson and OT William Sweet were named protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Denver Broncos RB LeVante Bellamy, TE Troy Fumagalli, DB Alijah Holder and LB Josh Watson were made protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Cleveland Browns OT Michael Dunn, QB Kyle Lauletta, PK Matthew McCrane and OT Alex Taylor were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Free-agent WR Joe Webb (Lions) is visiting the New York Giants Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Chicago Bears QB Tyler Bray was designated as a protected practice squad player for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Kevin Hogan, WR Stanley Morgan, RB Jacques Patrick and TE Mitchell Wilcox were named as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Buffalo Bills DE Bryan Cox Jr., C Jordan Devey, C Jonotthan Harrison and LB Darron Lee were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 13 on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller and CB Bradley Roby were officially placed on the Reserve/Suspended list Tuesday, Dec. 1. The Texans also activated DT Andrew Brown from the Exempt/Commissioner Permission list.
Arizona Cardinals TE Seth DeValve, DE Michael Dogbe, RB D.J. Foster and WR A.J. Richardson were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 13 on Tuesday, Dec. 1.