Fresh off a bye in Week 5, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers return home for a Week 6 showdown against one of the hottest teams in the league, the Detroit Lions. Given their recent performance on the field and the strength of their schedule ahead, this game could prove critical in the Bucs’ quest to win the NFC South.
Let’s see some keys to the game for the Tampa Bay squad.
Lions at Buccaneers: Keys to the Game
Defensive Performance Will Be Critical
The Lions’ offense has been absolutely balling to start the season. They rank eighth in passing yards (1,217), sixth in rushing yards (705), fourth in total points (148), and third in total touchdowns (19). For comparison, the Bucs rank 28th (858), 32nd (348), 25th (84), and 24th (9) in each of these categories. Sure, the Bucs are coming off their bye week, but one week would not have made a difference with how big the gap is between these two offenses.
Even if star wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown doesn’t manage to suit up for Sunday’s affair, the Lions will still have plenty of options on offense featuring running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, wide receiver Josh Reynolds, and one of the biggest surprises of the season, rookie tight end Sam LaPorta. The Iowa product has managed to haul in 25 receptions for 289 yards for an average of 11.56 yards per reception and three touchdowns in an excellent start of his rookie season.
Both St. Brown and LaPorta are questionable to play on Sunday. It’ll be worth monitoring their status heading into the game, but if they end up sitting out, the Buccaneers could be catching a huge break on defense.
Although historically he has been at best an above-average player, veteran quarterback Jared Goff balled out this season, recording 1265 yards with nine touchdowns and a career-high average of 104.42 passer rating. It will be of critical importance for the Buccaneers to figure out a way to stop the red-hot Detroit offense and have a shot of winning this one.
Dominate the Air Game
Defensive performance has also been outstanding for the Lions. However, their air defense has not been great. They rank 18th in the league with 1122 passing yards allowed, and eight of their 11 allowed touchdowns have been through the air. In contrast, their rush defense has allowed only 342 yards for an average of 3.3 yards per carry, and only three touchdowns on the ground.
Luckily, quarterback Baker Mayfield has a plethora of options to connect with through the air. We all know what stars Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are capable of doing, even after a few lackluster performances to start the season. If they do manage to turn things around and put up a solid performance, we could be in for a huge upset in this one.
However, Evans is questionable to play on Sunday. If he’s unable to suit up, second-year tight end Cade Otton could see a higher share of touches and potentially have a chance to become an important piece in this Bucs offense. It’ll be up to him to show head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Dave Canales what he’s capable of and earn his spot on the rotation.
Protect the Quarterback
Detroit ranks 15th in the league with 14 sacks so far, but their defensive line has already proven what they’re capable of. Led by star second-year defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, this is a unit that will surely come looking for blood and won’t hold back on Mayfield. Hutchinson’s showdown against Tampa Bay’s offensive line will be a critical matchup that could decide the outcome of the game.
The Bucs’ offensive line has done a great job of protecting their quarterback so far. Through four games this season, they have allowed the fewest quarterback hits (11) in the league and are tied for fewest sacks allowed (four). Mayfield’s mobility must also be something to watch out for; he must protect himself to avoid suffering an injury that could potentially knock him out for multiple games and affect his team’s performance heading into the most important stretch of the season.
Prove Them Wrong
Nearly all experts and media outlets are already counting out the Buccaneers in this game. The Lions are one of the hottest teams in the league right now and have been playing excellent football on both sides of the ball, but that does not mean they’re unbeatable. It’ll be up to Coach Bowles and the veteran players on the roster to display leadership to their squad and prevent the team from going into the game with a losing mentality. This season has been no stranger to upset wins: the Jaguars beating the Bills, the Cardinals beating the Cowboys, and even the Lions beating the Chiefs are clear proof that what could happen this week has already happened before this season. Don’t count the Buccaneers out just yet.
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