Predicting the final 4 games as Panthers look to clinch NFC South

(Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images) Sam Darnold
(Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images) Sam Darnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Carolina Panthers vs. Lions

There will come a time when the Carolina Panthers need more from Sam Darnold. The quarterback is well-insulated behind a superb offensive line and exceptional running attack, which is allowing the former USC star to manage games rather than force the issue since returning to the starting lineup.

Darnold’s was solid if not spectacular in Week 14. There were some concerns about his processing under pressure and missing wide-open looks, but the win is all that matters and something that the No. 3 overall selection in 2018 can build on moving forward.

If there was one game where Darnold could be tasked with more, it’s in Carolina’s home finale versus the Detroit Lions. A team that is in the midst of an outstanding series of performances on offense led by Ben Johnson, who is emerging as a leading head coaching candidate during the 2023 cycle.

While the Lions’ defense isn’t much to write home about, their offense can put up points in a hurry. And the Panthers aren’t built to play from behind right now given how Steve Wilks and Ben McAdoo are conjuring things up offensively.

Prediction: Win (7-8)

Make no mistake, this is a banana skin the Panthers would do well not to slip on. But with four wins in their last five heading into the game in this scenario, all it would take is a huge game from Darnold to send their fans home with some extra festive spirit on Christmas Eve.