The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Detroit Lions this week in what could be a playoff preview. This is a game that features so many storylines and matchups that it’s hard to know what ones to focus on. This has the makings of one of the most interesting games of the season this year.
Based on these two strong rosters and the matchups they present, I came up with a few predictions. Four opinions that might be strong, but I certainly see a pathway for them all to come true. Fire the takes! Here are my four bold predictions for this game.
Buccaneers force 3+ turnovers
There are two factors that go into this prediction. The first is that the Bucs have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Specifically, they are one of the best teams at forcing their opponents to turn the ball over.
I expect that to continue this weekend against a Lions team that does a good job protecting the ball. This is not a dynamic passing attack and Lions quarterback Jared Goff will make mistakes if pressured. I do expect him to turn it over at least once this weekend.
The other factor that leads me to this take is the fact that the Lions go for it on fourth down more than any team in the NFL. Head coach Dan Campbell is not afraid to force the issue and that can burn him. Don’t be surprised to see Detroit turn the ball over on possession at least once as well and very possibly more than that.
Big Day For Trey
The Lions have several rookies playing key roles for them this year. Perhaps the most impressive is nickel corner Brian Branch. Unfortunately, Branch’s status for this game is up in the air due to injury.
Regardless of if Branch misses the game or plays at 70%, this will be an advantage for Buccaneers receiver Trey Palmer. Palmer brings an element to the field that no one can compensate for in game changing 4.33 speed. The odds that Branch, who is really a safety, can keep up even at 100% are slim.
Then factor in that Mike Evans might miss this game with his hamstring injury. This would mean more targets for Palmer. We have seen flashes of his playmaking ability since training camp, but could really break out in an expanded role against an opponent who isn’t at full strength.
Rachaad White doesn’t lead the Bucs in rushing
The best rushing defense in the NFL this year has been the Detroit Lions. They have big, physical linebackers and a stout defensive line. Running the ball and stopping the run is what they are built on.
On the other side of this matchup, the Bucs have not been effective running the ball this year. While their yards per game average has improved from last year, the Buccaneers do very poorly in terms of yards per carry. Much like the game against the Eagles, it will be very difficult to run right at this Lions defense.
Because of that, I am expecting some different looks this week. We saw wide receivers run the ball well last week against this defense when the Carolina Panthers attempted this approach. There is also the hope of breaking off a long run and only Sean Tucker has the speed to gash the defense like that.
This isn’t meant to be an indictment on Rachaad White, but I think someone else will out rush him this weekend for the Bucs.
First to 20 wins
The Lions have one of the best offenses in the NFL. To hold them in the ballpark of 20 points is a difficult task. However, I believe that’s a realistic possibility for this Buccaneers defense, which is also one of the best units in the NFL.
On the other side of the coin, the Bucs offense and Lions defense are two units who have surprised this year. Neither were expected to be particularly good, but both have been very respectable thus far. This is another battle where the low to mid 20s is a very real possibility.
Whoever gets to that 20 point mark first should be in a strong position to win the game. It either forces the Lions to beat the Bucs through the air (which plays in favor of the Bucs) or it forces the Buccaneers to keep up with this Lions offense. Expect this to be a gritty, grind it out type of game that either team could win.