Buccaneers game day is approaching, and it’s time for the PewterReport.com staff to offer up its weekly game predictions. Let us know what you think in the article comments section and add your prediction, too.
WHEN: Saturday, December 26, 2020 WHERE: Ford Field TV: NFL Network PLAY-BY-PLAY: Adam Amin ANALYSTS: Mark Schlereth SIDELINE: Lindsay Czarniak RADIO: 98 ROCK 97.9 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff ANALYST: Dave Moore SIDLINE: T.J. Rives SPANISH RADIO: 96.1 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Carlos Bohorquez ANALYST: Martin Gramatica
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Merry Christmas, Bucs fans! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be playoff-bound come 4:00 p.m. ET the day after Christmas after beating up the banged-up Lions in Detroit. That’s the best Christmas and holiday gift this team could give you, right? Tampa Bay is the better team – and the healthier team – heading into Saturday’s match-up, and has much more to play for. A win by Tampa Bay and the Bucs are in the playoffs. Detroit, which fired head coach Matt Patricia a few weeks ago, has virtually nothing to play for, and is just 2-6 over the last eight games of the year. The Lions have lost two straight, while the Bucs have won two straight.
Not only does Detroit have an interim head coach in Darrell Bevell, but he and a great deal of the Lions coaching staff are on the COVID-19 list because they’ve either tested positive or come in close contact with someone who has contracted the virus. The Lions might not have half of their coaching staff come Saturday for the game, which won’t help matters. Plus, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford is dealing with an injured right thumb and ribs, and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip), the Lions’ main weapon, likely won’t play. The only distractions the Bucs will have to face are traveling on Christmas day and playing the day after Christmas, in addition to possibly overlooking a much lesser opponent.
If the Bucs can score some points in the first quarter and maybe even take an early lead – something that hasn’t happened in the past 10 games – then maybe the Lions will realize they don’t have much to play for and lay down. But the Falcons turned an early 7-0 lead into a 17-0 halftime advantage last week, and the Bucs can’t afford to make that mistake again versus a similarly bad opponent. Look for Tampa Bay to actually score some first quarter points – and win big for victory No. 10 on the season.
Here you go Bucs fans, your team on the verge of a playoff berth for the first time since 2007. And they are actually playing for much more, including seeding, but also an outside shot at the NFC South title still. Unlikely as it is, this team shouldn’t need any motivation. With a roster full of players who have never sniffed the playoffs, the Bucs need to jump all over the Lions and make this game a blowout. Detroit is in the middle of some COVID issues that will affect the number of coaches who will even be on the sideline for the Lions. There are ton of distractions in the Motor City and this should play into the Bucs favor big time.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford – Photo by: USA Today
It’s been discussed a hundred times over the past several games, but the Bucs need to figure out their slow starts and get up early in Detroit. If they can do this, maybe the Lions fold and wave the white flag. They are already a banged up bunch with QB Matthew Stafford nursing a hand and rib injury, and their top receiver, Kenny Golladay, likely to miss Saturday’s game. Defensively the secondary needs to tighten up and that might be made more difficult without cornerback Carlton Davis, wh0 has been held out of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. Generating a more consistent pass rush early will also help the secondary, something that has been hit or miss and come in spurts as of late.
The Bucs are by far the better team with much more to play for and I predict they get out of their first half slump on both sides of the ball and have the game well in hand at halftime this week, the complete opposite of last Sunday in Atlanta.
Jon Ledyard: Bucs Shouldn’t Just Win, They Should Roll
Everyone knows that consistency has been elusive for the Bucs this season, but there may be less standing between Tampa Bay and that goal in Week 16 than in any other game this season. The Lions, already wilting as losers of four of their last five and six of their last eight, are simply not prepared to offer much resistance on paper.
Detroit will be without a good chunk of their coaching staff due to COVID-19 protocols for Saturday’s game, potentially including interim head coach Darrell Bevell. They already fired special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs earlier this week, and have a ridiculous shortage of healthy bodies on both sides of the ball. A Detroit defense that is already missing five starters to injured reserve and ranks in the bottom of the league in every category imaginable, may also be without linebacker Jamie Collins, who hasn’t practiced this week with a neck injury.
Lions HC Darrell Bevell – Photo by: USA Today
On the offensive side of the ball, the injury situation is even worse. Right tackle Tyrell Crosby, left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow may not play on Saturday after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday (Decker was limited on Wednesday, missed Thursday), and top receiver Kenny Golladay looks poised to miss another game as well. Utility fill-in offensive lineman Hal Vaitai is still working his way back from a concussion, while quarterback Matt Stafford nurses a rib and right thumb injury that he will likely play through. With the Lions decimated on both sides of the ball and even along the coaching staff, the Bucs should overwhelm Detroit handily on Sunday. If they don’t, especially with a playoff berth on the line, you can rule Tampa Bay out as contenders.
As Bruce Arians called it, this is a “hat and t-shirt” game, with the Bucs having a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Saturday for the first time since 2007. The Bucs have beaten the teams they are supposed to beat this season, even with their slow starts. With so much on the line, why would that change now? Better yet, how many times can they start out so slow? I think things change this week.
With Ronald Jones out for the second straight week, the Bucs will be airing it out once again on Saturday, as they should be. They don’t need to run the ball to be successful, but they do need to keep running play action in order to open things up. Tom Brady may have only went 3-12 on play action last week, but it keeps the defense guessing, and that’s what you want to make the Lions do. They just allowed 46 points to the Titans last week, so the Bucs can at least reach the 30 mark again.
The Bucs need to follow the same blueprint of getting the ball into their playmakers’ hands. Keep targeting Mike Evans and let Antonio Brown continue to grow in this offense. Defensively, the Bucs need to prove they can get home with a four-man rush. Matthew Stafford is still playing through all the injuries he has, and he’s not as mobile as he normally is. Jason Pierre-Paul was just named a Pro Bowler, and he needs to show why that is. The Bucs have too much on the line with so many players ready to reach the postseason for the first time in their careers. They’ll be wearing the hat and t-shirts when the game has ended.
With an impressive comeback against the Atlanta Falcons after a disastrous first half in which the Bucs were held scoreless, Tampa Bay gets to face off against the Detroit Lions, who rank dead last in the NFL with 31.1 points allowed per game.
In addition to extreme struggles on defense, the Lions are currently playing under an interim head coach in Darrell Bevell, have Matthew Stafford playing through injury, have been missing star wide receiver Kenny Golladay for much of the season due to injuries of his own and had to shut the facility down and quarantine multiple defensive coaches this week after a staffer tested positive for COVID-19. Long story short, the Lions are in the midst of a disastrous end to their 2020 season where they’ve lost six of their last eight.
The Bucs have had their issues throughout the season, many of which they’re still trying to work through, but Tampa Bay is clearly the better team in this match-up and should walk all over Detroit this weekend. We’ve seen the Bucs underwhelm in those situations already this season, but the pressure is on Tampa Bay to work through their issues as the playoffs creep closer. In Detroit, there’s no better team to tee off against late in the year.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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