The Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face off on Sunday afternoon for a battle of NFC first-place teams. The Lions have established themselves as one of the conference's best teams, but they’re looking to prove that week-in-week-out that they can bring it. The Bucs, on the other hand, hold a 3-1 record with just a modest resume. A win over the surging Lions would go a long way in proving their legitimacy.
The Bucs boast a solid defense with a couple of playmakers on offense who can swing the scales of the game in their favor. And with a much healthier roster coming out of the bye than the Lions have, Tampa has a real shot to pull off an upset in front of their home fans.
So what do the Lions need to do to ensure that doesn’t happen? Well, Erik Schlitt kind of answered that question with his five keys to the game. So let’s frame it a different way for this game day Question of the Day:
Which Lions player is key to a victory over the Bucs?
My answer: The easy answer would be Jared Goff because it’s always your quarterback. And that may be even more true this week, as the Buccaneers’ success has been highly dependent on winning the turnover battle each week. In their three victories, the Bucs have won the turnover battle +3, +2, +2. If Goff can just protect the football, there’s a pretty good chance they win this football game.
But let’s dig a little deeper than that surface-level observation. How do you win turnover battles? Quarterback protection/pressure. Make a quarterback uncomfortable and he’ll make a mistake.
So the two keys to victory this week, in my opinion, are Alim McNeill and Frank Ragnow.
The quickest way to disrupt a quarterback is up the middle, and there’s going to be battle there on both sides of the ball. When Detroit is on offense, Ragnow will have to try to keep Vita Vea off the box score. That is no easy task against one of the best pass-rushing nose tackles—and it’ll be an even tougher task with another offensive line shuffle, as left guard Jonah Jackson is out and it’s unclear how they’ll replace him. But it will be essential for a Lions victory.
On the other side of the ball, McNeill appears to be in the midst of the Year 3 jump we were all hoping for. He’s generated 11 pressures and 2.0 sacks in the last three games, and this week he’s going against a subpar Bucs interior offensive line. Per PFF, left guard Matt Feiler (6), center Robert Hainsey (9), and right guard Cody Mauch (6) have combined for 21 of the team’s 31 total allowed pressures.
The Lions are a team that prides itself on trench warfare. This is another week to prove it.
Which Lions player do you think is key to victory? Scroll down to the comment section and let us know.