4 key Panthers matchups to watch vs. the Lions in Week 11

(Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports) D.J. Moore
(Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports) D.J. Moore /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Brian Burns /

Brian Burns vs. Tyrell Crosby

The Carolina Panthers are relying heavily on Brian Burns this season. He is the only player generating anything like consistent pressure in opposing backfields and if he has an off day against the Lions, it might just come with a sixth consecutive loss.

Yes, he is that important.

Burns will face a stern test of his credentials on Sunday in the form of Tyrell Crosby, who has shown a marked improvement in his overall play despite giving up three sacks from 500 snaps so far. His consistency is much improved on the whole, but the former Florida State standout can look at this matchup as a chance to add to the four sacks he’s generated in 2020.

Hopefully for Burns and the Panthers, giving Yetur Gross-Matos an extended role in the starting lineup will further aid their pass-rushing ability on the edge. The second-rounder has shown flashes of brilliance during an injury-hit rookie year and if he hits the ground running then quarterback Matthew Stafford might just be in for a long afternoon.

Getting Burns some assistance on the defensive line should be a top priority for Carolina’s decision-makers this offseason. One man cannot do it all on his own and defensive coordinator Phil Snow also needs to stop with the three-man rushes and take more risks with relatively little to play for between now and the end of the campaign.