I was surprised to see even two pundits pick against the Bucs. Phil Simms picked Detroit to win and The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, picked them to at least cover. There have been few actions more consistent in football this year than the Bucs beating a team with a losing record. The Bucs have won all 8 contests against sub-.500 teams.
It comes down to the fact that Freeman negates average-to-bad pressure by being so strong in the pocket with the ability to throw deep, scramble or both. Also, average-to-bad starting corners can’t handle Mike Williams. Additionally, average-to-bad offenses can’t score consistently on their physical, stingy defense. And what to sub-.500 teams have? Average-to-bad pass rushes, starting corners and offenses.
When Tampa is running: Even though the Bucs weren’t getting much out of Cadillac Williams early in the year, they’ve become a really good running attack that gets lost in the shuffle of the great ones in New Orleans and Atlanta. The Bucs have now rushed for 95+ yards in 11 of their 13 games, only failing to hit that mark against Pittsburgh and New Orleans. In overall rushing yards allowed, Tampa Bay’s bad record last year has reaped benefits this year. This will be their 7th game against bottom 13 rushing defenses in yards allowed, with an 8th coming next week against Seattle. Teams have gashed Detroit’s defense for 1595 yards (22nd) and 15 touchdowns (29th). I expect a solid day and would like for Earnest Graham to get more than two touches. Edge: Tampa, slightly.
When Tampa is throwing: The Lions had a great performance against a quarterback coming off the bench cold last week. They should have given up a huge gain to Greg Jennings earlier when he dropped it into an interception and Matt Flynn overthrew a sure touchdown in Green Bay’s last shot. They are still young, inexperienced and below average statistically in the secondary and are still without Kyle Vanden Bosch for the pass rush. Raheem Morris and Greg Olson promised to get Arrelious Benn more involved in the passing game. Edge: Tampa.
When Detroit is running: Detroit has some talented runners but injuries, inexperience and blocking have kept all Detroit runners under 4.0 ypc. I hear Stefan Logan will get some carries this week. He is shifty, while Maurice Morris is more pummeling. Jahvid Best will likely play but he is very hit and miss like CJ Spiller and averages only 3.3 yards a carry. Edge: even.
When Detroit is throwing: They never seem to try to throw it high to Calvin to take advantage of his size and vertical leap. The other wide receivers are pretty nondescript. Stanton seems to have sporadic moments of accuracy and he has more zip than Shaun Hill. That said, the Bucs secondary has shut down better quarterback s(see Matt Ryan a few weeks back). If Detroit goes up-tempo and moves Pettigrew around, the Bucs linebackers are more than able to take care of him. I expect Ruud, Hayes and the corners to prevent first downs from backs coming out of the backfield. Edge: Tampa.
PREDICTION: The Lions have been pesky but they also have shot themselves in the foot. While they’ve been held back by mediocre offensive play-calling worse than Tampa Bay has, their young, big-armed quarterback has been knocked out twice while Josh Freeman has had a very nice season. Tampa Bay has played cohesive football with few mistakes and outlasted teams at the finish or at clawed teams to the finish. Year 2 of the Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz Makeover has the Lions close but not there yet. The Bucs will make plays in all three facets but they must be disciplined because the Lions have playmakers in all three phases, too. I believe they score a little in all of the first three quarters, then pull away late. Buccaneers 27, Lions 7.
The rest of the games (home team in bold):
Eagles 35, Giants 28
Redskins 31, Cowboys 24
Ravens 28, Saints 21
Browns 28, Bengals 21
Steelers 21, Jets 14
Vikings 17, Bears 10
Texans 23, Titans 14
Packers 21, Patriots 10
Colts 21, Jaguars 17
Falcons 21, Seahawks 20
Rams 21, Chiefs 10
Panthers 28, Cardinals 24
Broncos 24, Raiders 21
Bills 21, Dolphins 20
(Chris writes for Buccaneers Gab)