Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs have been playing some of their best ball as of late as they have won 4 out of their last 5 games. Sitting at 6-7 and being eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, most teams may start to think about their offseason plans and watch the season go away, but Bruce Arians appears to have his team focused on finishing the season strong. Tampa has a great shot to not only get to .500 against the Lions but with their last 2 matchups against the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons, they could finish with a 9-7 record. If they do that, then not only they will carry momentum into the 2020 season, but with some key additions to the roster, they could be a dangerous team next year. It starts this Sunday, so here are my Top 5 things I want to see from the Bucs against the Lions:
1. Who will step up in Mike Evans’ absence?
Evans has been a staple in the Tampa passing attack ever since he joined the team and after going down with his hamstring injury, the team will need different players to step their game up as they will be more involved in the offense. Outside their leading receiver, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard is their next leading receiver, he has 367 yards. Bryon Leftwich may start to lean on his two tight ends more since they have the capabilities to be threats in the passing game. Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, and Scotty Miller will be in the mix on the outside as they do their best to replace Evans. Which one of those guys can help take the load off Godwin? We will find out on Sunday.
2. Can the defense take away Kenny Golladay and make “others” beat them?
Golladay is the Lions leading receiver with 1,008 yards. The team has placed Marvin Jones and T.J. Hockenson on IR over the past few weeks which has left them with limited options for their passing attack. Outside those two, Danny Amendola (539 yards) and Marvin Hall (261 yards) are the only ones on the roster that have over 250 receiving yards on the season. Kerryon Johnson is still their leading rusher and he was placed on IR on October 22nd. Todd Bowles should be looking to limit Golladay and force the rest of the Detroit offense to beat them. We will see how he plans to slow down the young stud receiver.
3. Will the offense try to lean on the run game?
As I alluded to earlier, the team will be looking to make up for Mike Evans in different areas in their offense. Could it possibly be in their rushing attack? Both Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber have had their opportunities to be the lead back this season, but both have failed to get over 100 rushing yards in a contest. The Lions hold the 9th worst rush defense, allowing 118.2 YPG. With the team likely trying to get both tight ends on the field and getting them more involved with Evans out, it is possible they could seek more of a balance in their offensive game plan. If there was ever a game for Tampa to get a player over a 100 rushing yards, it would be this matchup. We will see how BA and Leftwich plan to attack the Detroit defense.
4. Is this the game the defense wins them the matchup?
The Lions are down to their 3rd quarterback this season in undrafted rookie, David Blough. They have seen players like Kerryon Johnson, Marvin Jones, and T.J. Hockenson go on IR. Detroit will also be without 2 of their 5 starting offensive line as Joe Dahl and Rick Wagner have been ruled out due to injuries. Tampa’s defense shouldn’t struggle to slow down the Lions offense as it has been decimated due to all the injuries that they have dealt with this season. They should be able to get after the young quarterback all afternoon and force him into mistakes. This could be the game that the defense does the job to head back to Tampa with the victory.
5. Does the team handle business and not let the Lions think they have a shot?
As I have talked about, Detroit has been dealt a bad hand as their season has gone on with injuries and they’re currently on a 6 game losing streak. The Bucs should be able to beat a team like this. Tampa doesn’t need to come out and play down to their competition, which would give the Lions hope that they could give their fans a home victory as they head towards the end of the year. The Bucs need to come out and take care of business so Detroit doesn’t believe they got a shot at any point. This should be one where Tampa wins by 2+ scores and comfortably head towards a victory in the 4th quarter.