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O'HARA'S WEEK 16 PREVIEW: Goff knows how to navigate a playoff race

Jared Goff's leadership role extends beyond his duties as the Detroit Lions' quarterback, but it isn't one that he overplays.

He has brought his playoff experience from his five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, where he was the starting quarterback on Rams teams that made the playoffs three times.

That included a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2018 season, where the Rams lost to the Patriots.

The Lions are in playoff contention with a 7-7 won-loss record with three games left going into Saturday's road game against the Carolina Panthers.

Goff is available for any teammate who needs help navigating the pressures of a playoff race, but he's not pushing himself on anyone.

"A lot of guys here have been to the playoffs," Goff said. "I'm sure I'll be a part of that. But as the quarterback of this team and a leader on this team, it's part of my job.

"Not because I have experience in it, but because it's what I'm supposed to do."

Goff did not have to be taught going to a Super Bowl was an experience that could be taken for granted. Opportunities like that are to be cherished.

"I remember taking it very not for granted, and making sure I was conscious of that," Goff said. "This is a different situation. We're 7-7 and have three games to play. There's a lot to look forward to.

"It's a lot of fun to be here now and to be winning. We're doing some good things.

"We need to keep doing it."

Panthers preview: Head coach Steve Wilkes is taking his team back to the basics for their push in the NFC South playoff race. It starts with practicing in pads for Saturday's home game against the Lions.

"I want to create that mindset that we had previously," Wilkes said this week. "I know we're going to get back to the standard we set."

The Panthers are legitimate contenders for the NFC South title in one of the strangest division races in league history. The Tampa Bay Bucs are in first place with a 6-8 won-loss record. Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta are tied for second, all at 5-9.

The division title, and the first-round home game in the playoffs that goes with it, is incentive for Wilkes to take any measures possible to win the division. Wilkes has had modest success since being promoted to interim head coach when Matt Rhule was fired on Oct. 10.

The Panthers were 1-4 when Wilkes took over and 4-5 since then.

The Panthers have struggled on offense. The Panthers' defense can pose problems up front with Derrick Brown and Brian Burns, who leads the team with 10.5 sacks.

Lions' keys:

Offense: Run the ball better. The Lions have averaged under 4.0 yards per attempt in three of the last four games. A strong running game sets up play action. Goff thrives on it.

Defense: Force the Panthers to throw the ball in situations that favor the defense. Quarterback Sam Darnold has started the last three games and has three TDs without an interception. He has averaged only 169.7 yards per game and 3.9 yards per rush.

Play a clean game: That means cut down on penalties and breakdowns in pass coverage. These games get more important and more meaningful by the week. You've got something special going on here. Keep it going.

Lions-Panthers pick: Lions favored by 2.5.

Head coach Dan Campbell has found a way to keep his team focused on the goal for seven straight weeks – two three-game winning streaks and a three-point loss to the Buffalo Bills. He can do it another game – and longer.

Lions 29, Panthers 16.

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