The Buccaneers have four games left to play in 2014. While the season hasn't lived up to expectations, it doesn't make stretch of games any less important to this team. Finishing strong must be a staple for the players and coaches as the Bucs try to close the final quarter on a good note. On Sunday, the Bucs will travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. Here are some keys to the game against the Lions:
1. DISRUPT MATTHEW STAFFORD
Stafford might be the most exciting quarterback in the NFL. He's been able to rip off some huge plays in his young career as the leader of the Lions. Yet at the same time he can be a "Fantasy Football" owner's worst nightmare. For as many four-TD games as he's put together, he's sprinkled in just as many multiple-INT games as well. Interestingly, a factor to both his hugely positive and negative games is just how Stafford throws the ball, positioning his arm many different ways to get a pass off. While this sometimes results in a big gain to one of his explosive receivers, this unorthodox throwing style can also often get him in trouble. Pressure in his face has proven to be his Achilles' heel, so if the Bucs can get to him, Stafford's "high risk/high reward" playing style could prove to be beneficial for a rapidly improving Bucs defense.
2. SUH & COMPANY
This Lions' defense has been the force behind their success in 2014. Ndamukong Suh leads a front four that has been stout all year long. Behind them, the much-maligned Lions' secondary from the past few years is much improved, led by second-year cornerback Darius Slay. Balance on offense will be critical for the Bucs to have success vs. this Lions defense. I can promise you that if the offensive line fails to set the tone in the trenches, the Lions defense will. If there was ever a week to punch somebody in the mouth (not literally … well, actually literally) this would be the week to do it.
3. FINISH DRIVES
Between the 20s the Buccaneers have found success. But as they approach the red zone, this team finds ways to shoot themselves in the foot. Facing the high-octane offense of the Lions, the Bucs need to finish drives with touchdowns rather than field goals. The Bucs defense has shown over the last few games against impressive skill position players that they can keep the score down. The question then becomes, will this Bucs offense find a way to finish?
When teams around the NFL find themselves with down records, coaches and personnel closely evaluate the players on the field to see if they're playing with effort and execution. Jobs are always on the line. This always heightens when seasons are down. The Bucs' players need to finish strong and show their worth in these last few games. It's crucial to the team's and the individual players' futures.
Get to know the key players on Detroit before the Buccaneers face off with the Lions on Sunday.