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O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: Griffen bringing energy & production to Lions' defense

Lions at Panthers, Final Thoughts: Defensive end Everson Griffen has brought more than energy; Random Thoughts – critical point for the Lions; Panthers' receivers pose problems; running back stats comparison, my pick and more:

Griffen has brought energy and production to the Lions' defensive line since being acquired in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Lions need it at a critical point in the schedule.

The outcome of two games in five days – today on the road game against the Carolina Panthers and Thursday at Ford Field in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game against the Texans – will have a significant impact on their playoff hopes.

With a 4-5 won-loss record going into today's game, it is almost imperative that the Lions sweep the next two games.

Griffen's energy level is obvious in many ways – how he plays the game, his pregame mannerisms and routines and in his media interviews.

His production in the two games since the trade is obvious in the weekly stats sheets.

He had three tackles and a pass defended in a loss to the Vikings.

In last week's win over Washington, Griffen had three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and five hits on quarterback Alex Smith.

He spread the credit around for his performance.

"I think it was good play calling and good team football," Griffen said. "We dialed up some stuff and got it done. We drew it up in practice, and it worked out. We executed during the game."

Griffen fit in quickly with the defensive scheme, and with his new teammates. He arrived with a resume – 78.5 sacks in 10 seasons with the Vikings.

"Being in the same room with him, learning different things from him – he's been great," said defensive end Romeo Okwara, who leads the Lions with six sacks and 12 quarterback hits.

"He has a wealth of knowledge. He's been great. He had multiple hits last week and put on pressure. That's been good for us."

Random Thoughts:

Double dip: My opinion – it's imperative that the Lions win today and beat Houston on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field. The Lions had winning records at that point the last three times they made the playoffs. They were 7-4 in 2011, 2014 and 2016.

"Snacks" & sacks: It's intriguing to think what would happen if Griffen's addition gives the pass rush the same impact that the run defense got when defensive tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison arrived in a trade with the Giants midway through the 2018 season.

The Lions gave up 1,140 yards rushing in the first eight games of that season and only 621 in the second half. A comparison might be averaging 2.5 sacks per game – a reasonable increase over their average of 1.4 with 13 sacks in the first nine games.

Panthers, going deep: Wide receivers Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore are largely unheralded, but the evidence of the problems they cause for secondaries is that both rank in the top 10 in receiving yards.

Anderson is fifth with 772 yards on 64 catches, with a 12.1 yard average per catch. Moore is 10th with 736 yards on 39 catches and an average of 18.9.

"It's one of the most explosive skillset groups in the league," said head coach Matt Patricia.

The Panthers rank sixth in the league with 34 catches of 20 yards or longer. Moore provides the speed element.

"He's fast; he can go vertical," Patricia said. "He can really get behind the coverage. And Robby ... we know he can do that, too. I think the thing with Robby that's been impressive so far that's been impressive to me is to see his development.

"He's doing a really good job of getting in and out of breaks – finding his space is zones and really working some of that stuff.

"But speed is the first thing that stands out."

McCaffrey and Swift: Don't make too much of this item. It's a stats comparison, not a comparison of Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift and Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers' star running back who has been limited to three games because of ankle injuries.

As a rookie in 2017, McCaffrey had 1,086 total yards from scrimmage – an average of 67.88 yards per game.

Through nine games, Swift has 606 yards from scrimmage – an average of 67.3.

It's just a stat. (But their skills – receiver, runner, quickness – really are similar.)

We also won't see either running back today due to injury.

Prediction: Any prediction I made before this one doesn't count because of unexpected injuries.

What hasn't changed is the matchup. Bottom line: The Lions' starters are better than Carolina's starters. So are their reserves. Whoever plays or doesn't play, I like the Lions to win this game.

Pick: Lions 27, Panthers 13.

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