FanPost

On Paper: Lions vs. Bucs

The Lions travel to Tampa Bay this week to face a Buccaneers team striving to stay alive in the playoff race.  The Lions are coming off an extremely strong defensive effort in a victory over the Packers.  The Bucs, too, are strong on defense, but lost two key defensive players last week, including rookie Gerald McCoy. Not many people consider Tampa Bay as good as their record is, but it is hard to not be impressed by what they are doing in Tampa.  Still, this looks to be a pretty even matchup, so let's go to the numbers.

Lions Pass Offense (11th) vs. Bucs Pass Defense (11th)

(Teams in bold were the home team)

Opponent

Opponent's

Passing YPG

Passing Yards vs. Bucs

Opponent's

Season QB Rating

QB Rating vs. Bucs

Browns

185.4

227

77.7

59.2

Panthers

151.1

184*

55.0

48.6*

Steelers

212.2

186**

92.4

106.5**

Bengals

229.5

209

78.1

58.7

Saints

284.9

263

93.6

109.2

Rams

207.8

126

79.1

89.6

Cardinals

182.1

305***

59.7

60.9***

Falcons

231.2

235

90.7

94.1

Panthers

151.1

191

55.0

75.5

49ers

209.0

148

78.7

51.5

Ravens

229.9

289

94.0

103.2

Falcons

231.2

205

90.7

62.8

Redskins

241.3

228

77.1

100.7

*Moore + Clausen

**Batch

***Anderson + Hall

Well, it doesn't get any more even than that, 11th vs. 11th.  Looking a little closer, the Bucs' pass defense looks somewhat average.  They've allowed seven of 13 opponents to outdo their yardage average, while only allowing six of 13 to surpass their average QB rating.

Looking at other stats gives mixed results.  On one hand, the Bucs rank 7th in opponent's QB rating, 3rd in interceptions and 12th in opponent's completion percentage.  Conversely, they rank 30th in sacks and have allowed nine plays of 40 or longer (T-5th most). 

The Lions pass offense slipped to 11th this week after a pretty horrific performance by Drew Stanton.  Although Shaun Hill took some snaps this week in practice, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Stanton will start again this week as he took all of the first team snaps.  With Stanton at the helm, I don't expect the Lions to take many shots downfield, which will make the defender's job much easier.  However, it's impossible to deny that Stanton's ability to extend plays is invaluable.  The key, this week, is that Stanton avoids the big mistake.  His interception in Packers' territory last week was a perfect example of everything that is good and horrible about Stanton.  He avoided a sack that would've taken him out of field goal range, but then made a terrible decision (and throw) that gave the ball away.  I have to imagine he'll throw in a mix of great and frustrating plays, leading this matchup to a draw.

Lions Run Offense (27th) vs. Bucs Run Defense (27th)

Opponent

Opponent's

Rushing YPG

Rushing Yards vs. Bucs

Opponent's Season Avg YPC

YPC vs. Bucs

Browns

110.9

104

4.1

4.5

Panthers

112.2

119

4.3

3.6

Steelers

120.2

201

4.1

6.3

Bengals

87.8

149

3.6

5.3

eSaints

101.1

212

4.1

6.6

Rams

107.8

161

3.8

5.0

Cardinals

90.3

100

4.5

4.3

Falcons

124.5

130

4.0

3.9

Panthers

112.2

118

4.3

3.8

49ers

108.5

71

4.2

3.9

Ravens

104.9

92

3.6

3.5

Falcons

124.5

85

4.0

3.1

Redskins

96.9

188

4.3

6.7

Wow, another tie in rankings.  Tampa has allowed over 100 yards in 10 of 13 games, nine of which teams' outgained their season average.  Surprisingly, only six of 13 teams have put up better yards per carry against the Bucs than their average.  This is especially surprising when considering that the Bucs are giving up 4.7 a carry, which is 3rd worst in the NFL. Interestingly, they haven't been giving up the yardage on long plays, as they rank 19th in rushes of 20+ allowed, and they are tied with 9th in rushes of 40+ allowed (only 1). 

As mentioned earlier, the Bucs lost McCoy for the season last week, who was having a decent rookie season.  They also lost starting linebacker Quincy Black, who is 2nd on the team with 88 tackles on the season.

The Lions rush offense got a shot in the arm last week, and Stanton deserves a lot of credit for that.  His ability to run creates another threat that the defense cannot ignore, or they'll get run over like the Packers did last week. The Lions totaled 190 yards on 41 carries (4.6 per carry).  Stephan Logan also deserves some credit, as his 30 yards on the ground provided a change of pace for Maurice Morris and Jahvid Best, who continues to struggle. 

Considering injuries and the threat that Stanton provides, this looks like a pretty positive matchup, which is key for the Lions. Their passing game will be aided tremendously if the Lions can continue their ground success.  Lions +2.

Bucs Pass Offense (22nd) vs. Lions Pass Defense (13th)

Opponent

Opponent's Passing YPG Allowed

Passing Yards Allowed vs. Bucs

Opponent's Season QB Rating Against

QB Rating Allowed vs. Bucs

Browns

223.6

182

80.6

88.7

Panthers

205.5

178

78.4

102.4

Steelers

232.9

184

77.2

67.1

Bengals

223.1

280

83.3

85.4

Saints

198.6

219

79.0

79.5

Rams

228.2

212

81.2

80.4

Cardinals

235.9

278

81.7

121.7

Falcons

233.2

189

86.8

72.0

Panthers

205.5

241

78.4

134.2

49ers

227.3

136

88.8

117.9

Ravens

221.1

162

77.0

67.6

Falcons

233.2

181

86.8

61.4

Redskins

260.5

266

90.0

109.8

While the Bucs aren't considered to be a pass-happy team, they seem to be fairly productive when they do decide to air it out.  While they only outgained opponents averages in five of 13 games, they put up above-average QB ratings in eight of 13.  Overall, they rank 13th in team QB rating (88.8), 8th in sacks allowed, but 18th in yards per pass attempt. 

Josh Freeman is proving to be a worthwhile quarterback, as he usually plays a safe, but productive game.  He has only thrown six interceptions while passing for 17 touchdowns.  But the Bucs don't rely on him much, as they are 25th in pass attempts per game.

Detroit continues to climb up the rankings in terms of passing yards allowed per game, actually ranking in the top half of the league at this point in the season.  Of course, this doesn't tell the whole story, as the Lions still rank 28th in QB rating allowed.   The Lions continue to be pretty banged up on defense, but last week, the defensive line showed that they can be an incredibly deep unit.

I expect the Bucs to be mildly successful throwing the ball against the Lions, but this isn't an incredibly important matchup, as the Bucs don't rely on Freeman much per game.  Therefore, Tampa only gets a +1 advantage.

Bucs Run Offense (11th) vs. Lions Run Defense (22nd)

Opponent

Opponent's Rushing YPG Allowed

Rushing Yards Allowed vs.

Bucs

Opponent's Avg YPC Allowed

YPC Allowed vs. Bucs

Browns

124.7

119

4.1

4.0

Panthers

132.6

95

4.1

2.8

Steelers

60.1

75

2.9

3.6

Bengals

124.8

125

4.6

5.7

Saints

110.0

42

4.3

2.3

Rams

105.7

124

4.5

5.9

Cardinals

143.3

154

4.4

5.1

Falcons

107.2

96

4.6

3.6

Panthers

132.6

186

4.1

6.2

49ers

100.1

161

3.7

3.9

Ravens

98.8

101

4.1

4.4

Falcons

107.2

151

4.6

5.2

Redskins

134.4

103

4.9

4.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This matchup may be the key to the entire game.  The Bucs outperformed their opponents' averages in yards allowed and yards per carry in eight of 13 games, slightly more than half of their games.  They rank 12 in yards per carry (4.3), are 11th in rushes of 20+ yards and 4th in 40+ yard rushes.  LaGarrette Blount has been metaphorically sucker punching defenses since he became a major part of the offense in week seven.  He's averaging 4.5 a carry and has scored five touchdowns.

The Lions have been terribly inconsistent this year in run defense.  They've slowly improved to 22nd overall in run defense, but they are still giving up 4.5 yards per carry allowed.  The linebackers continue to be a liability and they are losing men each week.  Last week's casualty was Landon Johnson, who looked to have a very serious injury, but actually has a chance (albeit a small one) to play this week.  Bobby Carpenter, who wasn't even on the team until mid-October, will likely start in his place.

Jim Schwartz said this week that "Our defense needs to stop the run & force some 3rd & longs" and I completely agree.  But with the crew that Schwartz has, that is much easier said than done.  The Lions will need to show their depth, once again, to have any chance in this matchup.  Bucs +2. 

Turnovers

Tampa is ranked 8th in turnover margin to Detroit's 11th ranking. Both teams rank 8th in takeaways, but the Bucs are 7th in giveaways while the Lions rank 16th.  Freeman, as mentioned, is a very safe quarterback, which is completely in contrast to Stanton's playing style.  The only thing that worries me, though, is the fact that the Bucs force a lot of interceptions and Stanton's carelessness.  That's not a great combination.  However, the Lions forced four turnovers against one of the safest teams in the league in Green Bay last week.  Turnovers are pretty hard to predict, and there isn't enough of an advantage either way to give the edge to a team.  Draw.

Special Teams

Here's the rundown:  

Detroit: 1st in kick return average, 5th in punt return; 7th in kick coverage, 27th in punt coverage

            Bucs: 13th in kick return, 31st in punt return; 9th in kick coverage, 8th in punt coverage

Detroit's one weakness is punt coverage, but luckily the Bucs are near worst in punt return average.  The Buccaneers' coverage teams are somewhat impressive, but Logan is still keeping the Lions atop the league in most return statistics.  Lions +1.

Penalties

TB - 18th

Detroit - 31st

My weekly feature will now include a prediction of what penalty will screw the Lions this week.  Because of "trip-gate", officials will be looking carefully at the sidelines during punt returns.  Logan will take a punt return to the house only for it to be called back because a Bucs' gunner tripped over a tee that Dave Rayner left on the sidelines.  The penalty will be called on Ndamukong Suh, just because.  Suh will retaliate by devouring Blount on the next defensive play.  15 yards for cannibalism.  Bucs +0.5. 

Overall

On paper, the Bucs squeak by with a +0.5 advantage.  They also have home-field advantage (although the game did not sell out) and are the team more desperate for a win.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuut, the Bucs really haven't been that good this year.  Their most impressive wins (by record) are against the Rams, Redskins and Browns: two teams that Detroit has also beaten and one that they won't play.  Detroit has a more impressive win over Green Bay (though it probably needs several asterisks by it), and their wins over the Rams and Redskins were much more convincing.

I know the entire point of this column is to be as objective as possible, but I will actually be in  attendance for this game (and next week at Miami), so I can't help but feel like the Lions will prove the numbers wrong for a second week in a row.  Lions win a squeaker 20-17 and I get beat up by the ten Bucs fans in attendance.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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