The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Detroit in Week 16 for their final road trip of the 2020 regular season. They could come back home with a playoff spot in hand.
After improving to 9-5 with a dramatic comeback win in Atlanta on Sunday, the Buccaneers will head out of town again for a rate Saturday game against the Lions at Ford Field. The contest kicks off at 1:00 p.m. ET and will be the first of a three-game NFL national showcase on that day. If Tampa Bay beats the Lions, who fell to 5-9 with a 45-26 loss at Tennessee on Sunday, they will clinch their first postseason berth since 2007, regardless of what happens elsewhere around the league.
The Bucs rally from a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter proved critical as the rest of the NFL action didn't do much to improve their playoff standing. That included wins by Chicago over Minnesota, Arizona over Philadelphia, Seattle over Washington and Green Bay over Carolina. However, the Kansas City Chiefs did defeat the New Orleans Saints, 32-29, on Sunday, which keeps Tampa Bay's hopes for a NFC South title alive. While that seemed nearly impossible two weeks ago, and is still not terribly likely, all it requires now is for the Bucs to win their last two games and the Saints to lose to Minnesota and Carolina.
First things first, the Buccaneers will look to take care of business in Detroit against a Lions team that can clearly put up a lot of points. Prolific veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford played through a painful ribs injury on Sunday to throw for 252 yards and a touchdown before being lifted in the fourth quarter. He targeted wide receiver Marvin Jones frequently, with Jones catching 10 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Detroit racked up 430 yards of offense but couldn't keep up with Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and a Titans offense that had 463 yards and a near-perfect third-down conversion rate.
Detroit is under the direction of interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell after dismissing Matt Patricia and has since beaten a Bears team that is still in the hunt and lost to the Green Bay Packers by just one touchdown before Sunday's game. The Lions' defense has struggled, however, giving up the fourth-most points in the NFL before their high-scoring loss to Tennessee on Sunday.
The most prominent storyline for the Buccaneers in Week 16 is sure to be their persistent slow starts in the first halves of their games since midseason. They've been able to overcome that issue and still win on multiple occasions, most strikingly in Sunday's win in Atlanta, but they've also suffered a couple losses in which their comebacks came up short. The Buccaneers don't expect that formula to be successful in the postseason but they also believe they can solve the issue, hopefully as soon as this coming Saturday in Detroit.
"I think we just have to come out and start fast, come out with more energy, whatever it takes," said wide receiver Antonio Brown, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass on Sunday on a 46-yard go route in the fourth quarter. "Whatever it takes to get the win. We can't make excuses. I think we can play better. I think when we watch the tape, we'll see some things that we can improve on."