We told you last week that the Detroit Lions wouldn't have much trouble with the Carolina Panthers, and that was true. The Lions dominated the entire game and the Panthers only got to 24 points because of two ridiculous penalties on the defense. This week's Detroit Lions vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchup will not follow suit. This will be a fantastic test of achievement for how good we think this team may actually be.
Detroit Lions offense vs. Tampa Bay's defense
There's going to be a lot of nuance to this game. And, truthfully when you look at the numbers, there's no way to say for sure which way this one could play out. There are a lot of similarities statistically that we'll discuss below, but one thing is for sure, this will be a litmus test for the Lions and how they stack up in the NFC. This game will come down to turnovers and penalties, with the team who is more disciplined reaping the benefits.
Lions rushing attack vs. Buc's run defense
We'd like to think that given the Lions offensive line and David Montgomery running all over defenses the way he has this should always be a “win” matchup for the Lions. But, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast.” And, while the PFF Grade makes them look like the worst rushing defense in the league (44.4), every other statistical website has them at minimum an average run-stopping team. According to Team Rankings, they allow 4.1 yards per carry and only 94.8 yards per game to their opponents. Additionally, their overall DVOA ranks sixth best in the league at -14.0%. It could be tough sledding for the Lions run game, which is averaging 4.3 yards per rush and 141 yards per game, which ranks 7th in the league.
Lions passing game vs. Buc's secondary
The Lions are one of the better “balanced” teams in the NFL, passing 50.15% of the time and rushing 49.85%. Much of that credit goes to the mad genius of Ben Johnson but is made easier with a solid line and really good receivers who are in sync with Jared Goff. The Lions average 243.4 yards per game (9th in the league) and the Bucs' secondary allows 223.8 per game (16th in the league). This means, Goff is going to have to spread the wealth, like he did on Sunday, and take what the defense gives him. Hopefully, Jameson Williams will be able to utilize his speed and help take the top off the defense, allowing some of their other targets to come open more often. The Bucs' defense has already recorded six interceptions through four games, so the emphasis of ball security for Goff is going to be the prime mode of operation.
Overall, the Lions offense ranks 4th in DVOA and the Bucs' defense ranks 6th. The Lions average 29.6 points per game, while the Bucs' defense allows 17 points per game. It will be a great game for fans to watch and see which unit will break first and could come down to turnovers and penalties that make all the difference.
Detroit Lions defense vs. Tampa's offense
What once was a joke, this season Baker Mayfield is demanding you put respect on his name. The former #1 overall pick, Browns, Panthers, and Rams quarterback has seemed to settle into a place in Tampa. He currently ranks 15th in PFF's passing Grade and has a near 4-1 TD/INT ratio. He's gotten little help from his running game, who is only rushing for three yards per carry.
Lions run stoppers vs. the Bucs' ground game
There is a primed opportunity for the Lions to make the Buccaneers completely one-dimensional on offense. They do not run the ball well. Rushing at a 47.37% of their play calls, they only gain three yards a carry and have only averaged 87 yards a game, which is 25th in the league. The Lions on the other hand have allowed only 3.3 yards per rush and 68.4 yards per game, both of which are third-best in the league. It's a perfect opportunity to take the entire run game away from the Bucs and force Baker Mayfield to beat them, something he's done against the Vikings and Bears (bottom-tier defenses according to DVOA) and the Saints, who are a top-5 defense according to the same statistic. The question is, do we think he can beat us?
Lions secondary vs. Baker Mayfield and passing attack
If the Lions can take the run game away from the Bucs, it will force the ball into the hand of Baker Mayfield. He's played well this season, but of their three wins, two of them were against trash cans. Baker has completed nearly 70% of his passes for 214.5 yards per game. The Lions' secondary, who lost two of their key signings this offseason, are about league average in yards per game allowed. One of the things that the Lions are going to have to do is find a way to get pressure on Baker and get the Bucs off schedule and into obvious passing downs. The Lions are 21st in sack percentage, so upping that this week is important, especially on the road.
Overall, the Lions are 3rd in DVOA on defense and the Bucs come in at 18th on offense. Buccaneers put up on average three touchdowns a game. The Lions allow 21.4 points a game. So this one will be a lot closer than on the surface it may appear.
Look, this isn't the Panthers and there's not going to be a ton of “just take care of business talk.” This will have to be a win that is well-earned. Statistically, the Buccaneers match up well against the Lions strengths. Ball security and penalties will be the difference in this game. It seems right to assume the Bucs will get to their season average of 21 points, hopefully not more. This will be the defense's game to win and if they hold the Bucs to 21 or fewer the Lions win handily. Expect a score of 30-17, or potentially even closer.