Week 14 Game Scout: Lions at Buccaneers
DETROIT LIONS (6-6) AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-8)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Raymond James Stadium. TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 57th regular-season meeting. Lions lead series, 30-26, and have won three of the last four. In the only playoff meeting between the former NFC Central rivals, the Buccaneers beat the Lions 20-10 in 1997.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Lions could really use a fast start for the first time in what seems like months. They've been outscored 36-3 in the first quarter of their last four games and have played from behind most of the season. Given the Lions' struggles running the ball, their best bet to get on the scoreboard early is by attacking through the air, no matter who is playing quarterback.
Who knows what, if any impact, Matthew Stafford's swollen hand will have? He is expected to play, but anything is possible. What the Bucs can't underestimate is Stafford's arm strength. He can throw the football on the move and he's a better athlete than people think.
The Bucs rank 32nd in the league in sacks, with just 17, so the Lions should have time to push the ball downfield to Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay.
Tampa Bay did a good job running the football behind Peyton Barber last Sunday at Green Bay. Barber had 102 yards on 23 carries. Doug Martin could return this week from a concussion. But he will have to likely split carries with Barber.
Quarterback Jameis Winston was good in his first game since recovering from a shoulder injury at Green Bay, but he was sacked seven times. The Lions don't have a great pass rush (just 23 sacks), and the Bucs need to take advantage of that by protecting Winston better.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Lions WR Marvin Jones vs. Bucs CB Brent Grimes. Jones leads the Lions with 821 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Grimes is the Bucs' cover corner, but he won't be shadowing Jones all day in man coverage. But it's a matchup worth watching when he does come to Grimes' side.
--Bucs G J.R. Sweezy vs. Lions DT Akeem Spence. A former Bucs player in his first year with Detroit, Spence has 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Sweezy has had a rough year, especially in pass protection, but it should be a good matchup.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORTS
--Out: T Rick Wagner (ankle)
--Questionable: RB Ameer Abdullah (neck), CB Jamal Agnew (knee), DE Ezekiel Ansah (ankle), T Emmett Cleary (ankle), G T.J. Lang (foot), P Sam Martin (right foot), T Corey Robinson (foot), QB Matthew Stafford (right hand), C Travis Swanson (knee), DE Cornelius Washington (shoulder)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
--Out: CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring), DT Clinton McDonald (back), S Josh Robinson (hamstring), S T.J. Ward (concussion)
--Questionable: DE Ryan Russell (knee)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Buccaneers TE Anthony Auclair. He was an undrafted free agent who played football in college in Canada. The Bucs thought enough of him to release veteran Luke Stocker and enable Auclair to gain some experience. He had his first NFL reception against the Packers last week, his only target of the game.
FAST FACTS: Detroit QB Matthew Stafford ranks second in the NFL with 3,302 passing yards. He is averaging 312.3 per game in his past six games. In his past three games on the road, he has 952 passing yards (317.3 per game), five TDs and one interception for a 121.8 passer rating. He aims for his fourth game in a row on the road with a 100-plus passer rating. He passed for 305 yards and three TDs, with one interception, in his last game at Tampa Bay. ... RB Theo Riddick had a rushing TD in Week 13. He has 172 receptions since 2015, the most by an NFL RB. He has a catch in 40 consecutive games, the longest active streak by a RB. ... DE Ezekiel Ansah has three sacks in two career games against Tampa Bay. He has five sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his past seven games on the road. ... Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston passed for 270 yards, two TDs and no interceptions last week. In five games against NFC North opponents, he has 1,409 yards (281.8 per game) and nine TDs. ... RB Peyton Barber led Tampa Bay with 102 rushing yards in Week 13, his first career 100-yard game. He has 150 scrimmage yards and two rushing TDs in the past two games. ... DT Gerald McCoy has three sacks in his past three games at home. Since 2013, he leads NFL DTs with 38.5 sacks.
PREDICTION: The Lions are playing to keep their dimming playoff hopes alive. The Buccaneers might be playing for coach Dirk Koetter's job. Detroit achieves its goals at the end of the day with a last-drive win.
OUR PICK: Lions, 23-20.