The Road Ahead: Detroit Lions

Lions

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into their bye week with a 2-4 record and a third-place spot in the NFC South. There are 12 teams ahead of the Buccaneers in the overall conference standings, but the majority of the season still lies ahead. Despite taking a two-game losing skid into the bye, the Buccaneers are still eyeing a playoff run.

When the Buccaneers come out of their midseason break they will have 10 games remaining, against nine different opponents. They will likely need to win at least seven of those games to have a shot at the playoffs. Now that a third of the season has been played and teams around the league have revealed some of their strengths and weaknesses, let's take a look at how Tampa Bay matches up with each of its upcoming opponents, continuing with the Detroit Lions in Week 15.

Opponent: Detroit Lions

Date, Location: Week 15, December 15, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

Top Offensive Performer: WR Kenny Golladay…364 receiving yards, four receiving touchdowns

Top Defensive Performer: LB Devon Kennard…17 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 6 quarterback hits

Notable Strength: The Lions have the second-most forced fumbles in the league, recording nine, tying them with the Arizona Cardinals and putting them just behind the Houston Texans. It’s helped them to six turnovers this season, so far, and a +5 turnover margin, the sixth-best in the league. That’s key because it also means the offense doesn’t turn the ball over, either. It’s safe football, which seems to be the strength of the Lions in absence of any gaudy stats on either side of the ball.

Notable Weakness: The Lions are perfectly mediocre in almost every way. Their offense could put up more points, they’re tied for 22nd with 12 touchdowns on the season. They could move the ball more, ranking 25th in first downs. Their defense could get to the quarterback more, their 10.0 sacks on the year ranking 26th. But mostly, the Lions’ greatest weakness is that they have no clear-cut strengths.

How the Bucs Match Up:

With the issues the Bucs have had in dealing with very physical defensive fronts thus far in the season, the Lions would present an opportunity to take advantage of a front seven that is still trying to find its effectiveness. Quarterback Jameis Winston and the Bucs’ offense should have a little bit of time to allow plays to develop and it could result in an opportunity for the Tampa Bay receiving corps. The Lions are also giving up over five yards per play on the ground, which, like the Jaguars, would allow the Bucs’ run game to also get going. When the offense can operate in a balanced way, good things happen.

Defensively, the Lions have struggled to get much going on the ground on the legs of Kerryon Johnson, who ranks 21st in the league with 285 rushing yards. He’s scored just two rushing touchdowns this season, which accounts for all of the Lions’ rushing touchdowns this season. With what the Bucs’ defense has been able to do on the ground this year, that should prove a favorable matchup for Tampa Bay.

What answer the Lions will have for the Bucs’ passing attack, namely Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, remains to be seen, as well. Cornerback Justin Coleman leads Detroit with nine passes defensed and a forced fumble. That’s good for the second-most in the league among corners behind Green Bay Packers rookie Jaire Alexander, who has 10. Coleman has also nabbed an interception this year, one of just three the Lions have had all year. Coleman will get a test against either Evans or Godwin, with veteran Rashaan Melvin as the corner likely tapped to aid with containing the two prolific receivers.

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