The conversations about the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers have dramatically shifted after some recent results.
That's largely a good thing for the Lions going into their game against Carolina on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.
Despite playing in the NFC that is stacked with playoff contenders, Detroit is trying to enter the discussion.
"We just have to really stay in the moment," Lions coach Matt Patricia said on the postseason topic. "We have a lot to clean up."
The Lions (4-5) have won three of their last five games. The Panthers (3-7) are going in the opposite direction with five straight losses.
"We've got to find a way to make more plays and really, most importantly, do things right," first-year Carolina coach Matt Rhule said.
The lead-up to the Detroit-Carolina game is going to include a bit of dialogue about the health statuses of the team's starting quarterbacks.
Matthew Stafford of the Lions has a banged-up right hand coming into the week. The Panthers might be in more of a pickle after Teddy Bridgewater exited last week with a knee injury in the waning moments.
Rhule said the injury might not be as severe as initially suggested, and the quarterback was listed as a limited participant for Wednesday's workout.
Will Grier or PJ Walker will be the starter for the Panthers if Bridgewater is out.
Plus, Carolina will play for the second consecutive week and for the eighth time this season without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, who has a shoulder injury as his latest ailment. He has scored two touchdowns in each of the three games in which he has played.
"Carolina is going to be ready to go and we have to learn from (Sunday's) game," Patricia said. "It's a copycat league. There's things that come up in the game that are going to show up in the next game or a couple games down the road, so we have to get that stuff cleaned up and try to improve."
Stafford didn't practice Wednesday because of the thumb. His status might not be clear until the weekend.
Detroit is coming off a 30-27 victory against Washington on Matt Prater's 59-yard field goal on the game's last play. Prater has connected on 75 percent of his attempts from 50 or more yards in his career.
That's in contrast to a couple of field-goal attempts of more than 60 yards at ends of two games that didn't work out for Panthers kicker Joey Slye. Then came the 46-23 whipping from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week in a game that included a disastrous second half for Carolina.
The Panthers have been prone to losing streaks that have totally derailed recent seasons. In 2018, they lost seven games in a row and then last year they dropped their final eight.
"We've just got to do a good job of seeing what's wrong, being tough on ourselves while watching film and knowing that these are the plays we can make," Panthers safety Tre Boston said. "When it's mental, it's going back to the chalkboard and dialing in and learning how to focus in even more because when we do, we're a dangerous team."
The Panthers have faced the NFL's all-time leader in touchdown passes, Drew Brees (Saints), and then past NFL Most Valuable Players in quarterbacks Matt Ryan (Falcons), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) and Tom Brady (Buccaneers) over their past four games. With that in mind, perhaps a game against Stafford, despite his credentials, might seem like a bit of a reprieve.
"We want the challenge of going out there each and every week and having to play your best ball," Boston said. "That's what we've got to do."
Despite some of the moving parts on offense for the Panthers, they have improved in one area after a stretch early in the season when the settled for lots of field goals. Carolina has a touchdown on every red zone drive in its past four games, a 9-for-9 mark.
The Panthers are 4-1 all-time at home against Detroit, including winning the last four. The Lions haven't won in Charlotte since 1999.
Detroit won the most-recent matchup with a 20-19 decision in 2018 at home. Each team has a one-point victory across the nine all-time meetings.
--Field Level Media