The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming out of their bye week at 3-1 and leading the NFC South. They now open the second quarter of their schedule with another division leader in the Detroit Lions. While it may be premature to talk about playoff seeding, this game feels like the type of game that will have significant playoff implications down the line.
This will be a hard fought game for both these young teams. While the Bucs feature one of the best defenses in the NFL, the Lions bring to town one of the best offenses. This makes for an interesting battle.
What defines both of these units is their trench play. It is here that will determine the winning of this game. X marks the spot! Here are my X-Factor matchups against the Detroit Lions.
Lions Investment Up Front
For some reason, teams don’t often invest multiple first round picks into the offensive line. The Lions, a team who has traditionally spent their picks on sizzle over steak, decided that they wanted to dominate up front. Because of this, they have invested three first round picks in this offensive line.
Not surprisingly, this is the foundation of their team. Taylor Decker is an above average left tackle who wins with length, strength and fluidity. At center is Frank Ragnow, who might just be the best center in the NFL over the last several years. The youngest of these three first round picks, and maybe the best, is Penei Sewell who has had a Tristan Wirfs-like rise to being one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.
The Lions are no slouch at guard either. Jonah Jackson was a third round pick in 2020 and Graham Glasgow was a third round pick in 2016. These were all players drafted by the Lions and are all playing at a high level right now.
Vita Vea And The Pips(queeks)
The one name that stands out as someone who can go toe to toe with this offensive line is Vita Vea. He is perhaps the most powerful, dominating nose tackle in the NFL. Even against top tier competition, it won’t be easy to push Vea around in the middle.
After that, things get a little dicey. Calijah Kancey is a great athlete and projects as a great pass rusher. He can also be a good run defender in the NFL as someone who can beat pulls and make splash plays in the backfield. However, I have to wonder if he can body up against this kind of powerful rushing attack.
The same can be said of Logan Hall. He is a great athlete with pass rush upside, but he isn’t the powerhouse that can anchor the point of attack. Both need to play well to contain this Lions running game.
One name that I would like to see more of is backup nose tackle Greg Gaines. Over his career, Gaines has shined as a run defender and has the size and strength to muddy up the middle. This is the key to stopping the Lions offense.
While the offensive line is very good, it is not unbeatable. A powerful group of run blockers often leaves a little something to be desired as a pass blocker. And while the Lions are still largely very good in this area, they can be beat.
Todd Bowles is a master of generating pressures. He has no hesitation in blitzing his safeties or nickel backs, let alone his linebackers. This will be the biggest test this Lions offensive line has faced, both from a talent and from a scheme perspective.
In passing situations, I don’t see the Buccaneers at a disadvantage against this Lions offensive line. The likes of Kancey, Hall, Barrett and Tryon-Shoyinka may be undersized as run defenders, but they are quicker and faster pass rushers. This won’t be an easy matchup, but it’s one the Buccaneers can win.