The Lions and Buccaneers are an incredibly interesting matchup. Each team is in a rebuilding mode, and has young new head coaches (Raheem Morris) and a recently drafted franchise QB (Josh Freeman) and defensive lineman (Gerald McCoy) to show for it.
If there is a franchise who rivals the Lions current extended run of losing, it is the “creamsicle” Bucs, who were infamously bad in the late 70′s and early 80′s.
The Creamsicle Bucs Uniforms, 2.0
That being said, the Buccaneers have been a competitive, perennial playoff team under Tony Dungy and won a Super Bowl with Jon “Chucky” Gruden as their head coach. They are also an improbable 8-5 team, who are battling for their playoff lives.
On the other hand, the Lions have won one playoff game since 1957 and are experiencing a prolonged drought from post-season play. The Lions are no closer to being a playoff team now, than when they named Matt Millen as team president and Marty Mornihnweg as head coach.
The Buccaneers are watching their franchise QB Josh Freeman blossom, while the Lions Matthew Stafford has been injured during nearly all of the 2010 season. The Lions are celebrating the emergence of DT Ndamukong Suh, meanwhile Bucs DT Gerald McCoy’s play has been overshadowed by Suh’s (and McCoy has subsequently been placed upon injured reserve).
The Bucs will utilize the strong-armed, tough Freeman to their advantage against the Lions. Even if the Buccaneers offensive line has been decimated by injuries to G Davin Joseph and C Jeff Faine, they likely plan to utilize Freeman’s big time arm and burgeoning receivers Arrelious Been and Mike Williams (not that one) to go after a Lions injury-depleted secondary.
In order to do so, the Bucs will need to have rookie RB LeGarrette Blount pound the Lions in the ground game and have some success and efficiency with short quick passes, to slow the Lions devastating pass rush.
The Lions will be featuring new faces like CB’s Nathan Vasher, Eric King and Prince Miller in their secondary and also expect LB Bobby Carpenter to see his first heavy dose of playing time (outside of special teams). It is quite possible that the Lions defense will experience some communication breakdowns and be dogged by mistakes.
Still, the Lions defense has played much better during recent weeks and are ranked closer to the middle of the pack in the league (19th), than their usual bottom dwelling would seem to indicate.
The Buccaneers have been devastated by injury defensively, too. Aside from the aforementioned loss of Gerald McCoy, the Bucs have also lost their best DB Aqib Talib, S Cody Grimm and LB Quincy Black for the season.
Drew Stanton Will Do the “Dougie”, If He is Named
Sunday’s Starting QB For the Lions
The Lions are keeping their QB situation a bit of a mystery as to whether Drew Stanton or Shaun Hill will start. Either way, the Lions likely plan utilizing a similar run-heavy offensive strategy as the one they used to defeat the Green Bay Packers last week, to take some of the burden off of the Qb’s shoulders, regardless of who starts.
Teams have run pretty well against the Bucs (133.11 yards/g), so the Lions will likely use the assortment of Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris and Stefan Logan to their advantage, like they did last week.
The Lions should be prevented with a favorable matchup for each of their top receivers, WR Calvin Johnson and TE Brandon Pettigrew, against an undermanned Bucs defense. As long as the Lions can run moderately well, Johnson should be able to find some measure of success against CB Ronde Barber, whose better days are behind him.
On paper, this appears to be another close game for the Lions, where their ability to seize opportunities and avoid costly mistakes will determine the game’s final outcome. The fact that the Lions are amid a 26-game road losing streak does not inspire a lot of confidence, but if Jim Schwartz wants to make a mark, ending that streak in Tampa today would be huge.
Lions 24 Bucs 20