This Sunday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play host to the Detroit Lions in a potential playoff preview. The Lions are fresh off of a dismantling of the Carolina Panthers last week and are looking as good as anyone in the NFC right now. This will be a good measuring stick game for a Bucs team that has also played well to start the year.
Both the Lions and the Buccaneers lead their divisions. While the Bucs have risen to the top with their great defense, the Lions have done so with one of the most prolific offenses in football. A classic game of unstoppable force vs immovable object.
However, the Bucs will have to slow that unstoppable force down if they want to come out of their bye week with a win. It won’t be an easy task, but the Creamsicle (not Pewter for this game) Pirates have the ability to do just that. Here are my skeleton keys to victory against the Lions.
Defensive Line Clogs The Run
The Lions are built on their power running game. Their offensive line is one of the best in the NFL, featuring three first round picks on that unit. They want to play a physical brand of football and push the rock right down the defenses’ throat.
That won’t be a problem for the likes of Vita Vea. Even going against maybe the best center in the NFL in Lions’ Frank Ragnow, you have to like this matchup in favor of the Buccaneers. However, the rest of the line has to be up to the task as well.
Calijah Kancey is expected to re-debut in this game after only playing 11 snaps in the first game of the year before going down with a calf injury. And while he is a powerful and explosive athlete, he is also undersized and hasn’t seen a powerful offensive line like this one before. Despite being more experienced, you can say a lot of the same things about Logan Hall and his lean frame.
Taking away the run has to be the first, second and third priority for this Buccaneers defense. That starts with the big boys up front. Watch to see if Greg Gaines gets more playing time as a run stuffer against this particular offense.
Be Ready For The Unexpected
Dan Campbell is one of the most electrifying coaches in the NFL. Whether he is talking about biting off kneecaps or working out with his players in practice, he is such an engaging personality. We see that translate to his coaching style.
The Lions go for it on fourth down more than any team in the NFL. They will try to out physical you with their running game, but they will also try to out think you with fakes and trick plays. Any given moment is a good moment for them to do something unexpected.
Offensive coordinator, Ben Johnson, is good at drawing up plays that the defense isn’t ready for. Just last week alone he ran a double reverse flea flicker and a run where the center directly snapped the ball to the running back through the quarterback’s legs. This might be the most creative offense we have seen in some time.
Because of these things, the Bucs have to stay very disciplined. Assignment sound football makes it difficult to execute even the most elaborate plays. If the Buccaneers don’t fall for the razzle and the dazzle, then I don’t know that the Lions can move the ball consistently against this defense.
Slow Down Hutchinson
The current leader in pressures in the NFL is Aidan Hutchinson. The second year player is a very good athlete with a variety of moves to work his way inside and around the edge. He is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL this year and frankly the only one who is of particular concern on the Lions team.
The perfect counter for him is Tristian Wirfs. Much like Hutchinson, there might not be a better player at his position right now than Wirfs. His power and athletic ability have made him an All Pro caliber player since the moment he took the field.
The real challenge will be for Luke Goedeke. There is no doubt that Goedeke has played very well this year, even against good competition such as Danielle Hunter and Cameron Jordan. This will be a good opportunity to continue to establish himself as a long term piece for this Buccaneers roster.
This head to head will be particularly interesting. Both Hutchinson and Goedeke are power players who were criticized coming out of the draft due to their short arms. Really, they are mirror images of each other in a lot of ways. This should be a fun game within the game to keep an eye on.