In a clash of two of the NFL’s cat franchises, one is at the top of their division and the other is the last team in the league still looking for its first win. There’s intriguing young stars on both sides though, so let’s take a look at some Panthers vs. Lions player props for their matchup this Sunday (10/8/23) as we’ll focus on players like Aidan Hutchinson and Bryce Young.
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After being picked first overall in this Spring’s NFL draft, Young has had a tough start to his career in Carolina. He’s been put behind a bad offensive line and asked to carry an offense that is essentially devoid of supporting talent, so let’s take a look at how those trends might factor into his performance this weekend against a very tough Lions team.
Bryce Young Over 31.5 Passes Attempted (-120 BetMGM)
This is one of those lines where I’m just not really sure how it exists. Young has yet to go below this number in his first three NFL starts, and this is not the game where his volume is going to decrease. Consider the game script for this contest, in which the Panthers are about 10-point underdogs. Teams playing from behind have to throw the football, and all signs point towards the Panthers spending most of this game trailing.
The Panthers rank 25th in the PFF run blocking grade, 25th in run EPA and 26th in rush DVOA. They’re facing a Lions team that ranks seventh in PFF’s run defending grade, 10th in run defense EPA, and third in run defense DVOA, as well as first in run defense success rate. This team is establishing itself as a physical juggernaut, and should snuff out the Panthers’ pedestrian run game.
If the Lions do have a weakness, it’s their secondary. The pass rush, led by Aidan Hutchinson who we will talk about in a moment, has been pretty fearsome, so the passes have to come out quickly, but they should be completed. This sets up opposing quarterbacks perfectly to attempt a whole bunch of throws, and there’s nothing special about the Panthers that suggests that they will buck the trend.
Let’s take a look at the number of attempts for the four starters who have faced the Lions thus far; 39 from Patrick Mahomes on opening day, 41 for Geno Smith the next week, 38 thrown by Desmond Ridder, and most recently 36 for Jordan Love. All of these extremely different passers were forced to the air by the Lions, and Young- whose offense has been pass-heavy against opponents nowhere near the Lions’ caliber- will end up doing the same.
Aidan Hutchinson Over 0.75 Sacks (-120 DraftKings)
As a son of Michigan All-American defender Chris Hutchinson, then a Wolverine himself, and now a Detroit Lion, they say that Aidan Hutchinson has never lived outside of Michigan, but recently, it’s been noted that he lives in the offensive backfield. The ultimate Michigan man, Hutch has been fantastic once again this season. He got off to a slow start in the box score with no sacks in the first two games, but has surely made up for lost time with 3.5 in his past two games. He’s 11th in PFF’s rankings with a pass rush grade of 89.8, and leads the league with 27 total pressures en route to a pass rush win rate of 20.9%.
Among quarterbacks who have started more than one game, Young has been pressured on the fifth-highest percentage of his dropbacks, with a figure of 41.3%. His pressure to sack rate is also the ninth-worst in the league, so if a pass rush is able to get to Young, they’re usually going to be rewarded.
This pick goes right along with the first prop in this article; the more dropbacks Young has, the more opportunities there are for Hutchinson to secure his sack. Carolina is fourth in the league with a pass play percentage of 64.58%, so with the Lions playing from ahead, Hutch should have plenty of opportunities to get after the reigning first overall pick.
David Montgomery First Touchdown Scorer (+380 BetMGM)
This is officially my first time promoting a first touchdown scorer prop in this column, but let’s capitalize on the increased value rather than betting on Montgomery’s heavily-favored anytime scorer prop. Firstly, expect an overall shift towards the run game; top wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown has missed three practices this week and is likely to miss the game or be limited to some degree.
Independent of the St. Brown situation, Detroit has been one of the most run-heavy teams in the league, as they’re 29th in the league in pass play percentage, with a figure of 50.18%. In a game where they’re favored by 10, they’ll be coming out running with an intent of taking control and imposing their will on the Panthers.
So why Montgomery? In short, because the Lions have some bizarre vendetta against Jahmyr Gibbs, despite the fact that they used the 12th overall pick on him in this year’s draft. Head coach Dan Campbell indicated a few weeks ago that Detroit would begin to mix in Gibbs more, which turned out to be essentially a complete lie.
Despite the fact that Montgomery is averaging 3.8 yards per carry compared to 4.6 for Gibbs, the rookie can’t get any run, especially around the goal line; he has yet to score, while Montgomery has accumulated five ground touchdowns.
Even in a blowout win over the Packers, Montgomery scored three touchdowns of three yards or less, any of which could have easily been given to Gibbs to build his confidence. Instead, Montgomery was awarded all high-value handles, signaling his role as the top back, and the best bet to open the scoring.