Lions vs Buccaneers Game Preview
It’s a battle between two of the NFC’s most maligned franchises in recent years. Both the Lions and Buccaneers have consistently been the laughing stock of their respective divisions for most of the 2000’s. The Lions have reloaded with a new coach while Tampa’s will be on the hot seat.
Detroit and Tampa are both hungry to get back in the playoffs but face uphill battles playing in the NFC’s toughest divisions. This game will be a litmus test to see if either of them are ready.
The Lions are currently fielding the best team they’ve had in over 20 years and they’re barely a winning team. Their offence is among the league’s best thanks to Stafford blossoming into an elite quarterback.
But the defence has been spotty and led to the Lions making the change from Jim Caldwell to Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as coach. If he can shore up the defence, the Lions will compete in a stacked NFC North.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At best, the Buccaneers will almost be a winning team in 2018. And at worst, they are the last-placed team in the conference. Dirk Koetter’s seat gets hotter each day and he’s the favourite to be fired first, especially given how messy the team has become.
Jameis Winston has once again run into trouble off the field and unless he can take his game to the next level, management may sour on him and flip the team over entirely.
Picking the Buccaneers is tough to do even if it is a preseason game. But playing at home and going against a patchy defence adjusting to a new coach is their most opportune time to shine. Bucs win at home.
Lions vs Buccaneers Head-to-Head Records
The Buccaneers are one of the few teams the Lions have a winning record over. In 58 meetings, the Lions hold a 31-27 lead and have won four of their last five games. Neither franchise has exactly been the model for excellence making games between each other a fun game between two sub-par football franchises.
Detroit won the first three meetings against Tampa Bay in low-scoring affairs. The series has been even for the most part although the Lions won five-in-a-row during the mid-90s when they were at their peak in the Super Bowl era. The Buccaneers would get it back by winning four straight in the early 2000’s, which was also the height of their franchise.
Their last few games have generally been closely contested with four of the last five being decided by no more than a touchdown. Three of the last five were won by a field goal. Stafford has lit up the Bucs averaging 316.5 passing yards with a 3-1 record.
So long as Stafford is running the show in Detroit, the Lions should kicking the Bucs’ asses unless they develop a stalwart defence. Given how dysfunctional the franchise has been lately, don’t bank on it.
Detroit Lions Recent History
The Lions were one of the NFL’s best teams in the ’50s and were led by all-time great quarterback Bobby Layne. They won three NFL Championships in six seasons. But 1958 begun the “Curse of Bobby Layne” when he told the franchise they “wouldn’t win in 50 years” following his trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And sure enough, the Lions began a long horrible stretch of futility making only three playoff appearances in 32 years and failing to win a single game. They would be gifted Barry Sanders, the most gifted running back of his era and would only win one playoff game during his ten-year stint with the team.
Coincidentally, the Lions would draft Stafford in 2009, a year after the “curse”. They would make a few more playoff appearances but still hold the second-longest drought for playoff wins with 26 years. Stafford is still young and has plenty of years and the franchise is improving so maybe a playoff win or two is in their future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Recent History
They’re not cursed like the Lions but Tampa has been almost as incompetent. They won a Super Bowl in 2002 and made the NFC Championship in 1979 and 1999 but these have been the only times they’ve gone past the divisional round.
The Bucs were the subject of hilarity during their first two seasons. They set an NFL-record 26 straight losses and to this, head coach John McKay’s rants have remained embedded within the culture. Their .387 winning percentage is the worst in the NFL and it could get even worse given how dysfunctional they’ve become.
Winston hasn’t exactly been the quarterback messiah he was promised to be. Tampa could soon be with its fifth new coach since Jon Gruden left in 2008.
Detroit Lions Outlook
The good news is, the Lions have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Stafford and their offence isn’t half bad. The bad news is, they play in the most competitive division and their defence isn’t measuring up. Stafford led the seventh-best offence in 2017 despite the lack of a running game.
Detroit signed back-to-back Super Bowl champion LeGarrette Blount and drafted Kerryon Johnson with their second-round pick. Both will play a crucial role to help diversify Detroit’s attack even if they’re not racking up reps. The addition of Frank Ragnow at guard will help their new backs and he’ll be a boon to a continually growing o-line.
It’s the defence that will make or break the Lions. Patricia may have the smarts to make the most of what they have but it’s scanty. They are starving at linebacker and are weak on the right side of the defence. Detroit is getting there but not quite yet.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Outlook
Changes are coming for the Bucs. Anything short of a winning soon is more than likely going to get coach Koetter fired and most of his staff with him. Winston will be serving a three-game suspension for off-field misconduct and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has a habit of “stealing” starting quarterback positions will fill in.
Tampa’s defence is their strong suit. Their defensive line is among the best with edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul coming over from the Giants while Gerald McCoy and 2017 first-round pick Vita Vea will anchor the inside. The linebackers and secondary are solid.
With their defence, Tampa will be in many games even if they won’t win most. But their quarterback situation paired with their rough schedule to start the season means another losing season in The Big Guava.
They may have a depressing outlook, but the Bucs are in prime position to win this game from Detroit. The Lions are coming to town still making adjustments on defence. Fitzpatrick is one of the more prolific backup quarterbacks who can definitely exploit a defence when it’s not at its peak.
On defence, the Bucs’ newly assembled line will give Detroit’s a run for their money. The Lions have new additions and could still lack chemistry. Stafford may face pressure throughout the game. While Tampa’s secondary isn’t elite, it’s good enough to limit Stafford even if he usually destroys the Bucs.
Stafford won’t be playing a full game. Matt Cassel or Jake Rudock may be taking the second-half snaps and they’re far less likely to put up yards on the Bucs. Tampa also has a multi-pronged attack at running back.
They can go up on the Lions and use any combination of Ronald Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Charles Sims. Tampa should gut this one out.