The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions have a lot in common this season. Both have been eliminated from playoff contention, rank in the top ten in passing offense and are in the bottom three in the NFL in passing defense.
Even with those similarities, these two teams are headed in opposite directions.
Detroit (3-9-1), after a 2-0-1 start, has lost six straight games and nine of their last ten.
Tampa Bay (6-7) has won three straight and four of their last five games after a 2-6 start to the season.
The Buccaneers have done so with one of the most potent offensive attacks in the NFL.
Under head coach Bruce Arians, in his first year with the team, Tampa Bay ranks third in the league in points per game with 29.1. They also rank third in total yards per game (392.8) and second in passing yards per game (298.2).
He has revitalized quarterback Jameis Winston, who is second in the league in passing yards, behind only Dak Prescott with 4,115. He is also tied for second with Russell Wilson with 26 passing touchdowns, behind only Lamar Jackson.
Winston is coming off a career-high 456 passing yard game last week against the Indianapolis Colts, but also threw three interceptions to increase his NFL-high total to 23.
Winston, who is questionable with a thumb injury, will be without one of his top weapons, wide receiver Mike Evans, who is out with a hamstring injury.
Evans, who is third in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,157, may miss the remainder of the season.
The Bucs could still be in for a big game through the air as Detroit ranks 29th in total defense and 30th in passing yards allowed. They also still have Chris Godwin, who ranks second in both receiving yards (1,212) and touchdowns (9).
As for the Lions, they will turn to undrafted rookie David Blough for the third straight game.
In place of the injured Matthew Stafford and Jeff Driskel, Blough hasn’t played poorly but hasn’t been impressive either.
In his two starts, he has thrown for 485 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Detroit will look to attack the Tampa Bay secondary, as they allow 278.8 passing yards per game, which ranks 31st in the NFL. The Buccaneers also rank 31st in the league in points allowed per game (29.3).
Kenny Golladay, who leads the league in receiving touchdowns with ten, could be in for a monster game.
The one thing this defense can hang their hat on this year, though, is stopping the run. They are first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at 75.5. This doesn’t bode well for the Lions, who have not been good at running the ball all season long, and backup running back turned starter Bo Scarbrough is questionable with a rib injury.
Scarbrough is just one of many, for both teams, who could miss this game due to injuries.
Detroit placed wide receiver Marvin Jones on injured reserve earlier this week. Jones was having a solid season for the Lions with 62 receptions, 779 yards and nine touchdowns.
Along with Jones, they placed linebacker Jarrad Davis, left guard Joe Dahl and defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand, on IR as well.
Besides Stafford, the Lions will also be without offensive tackle Rick Wagner (knee) and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (shoulder). Linebacker Christian Jones is questionable with a shoulder injury.
Besides Evans, Tampa Bay will be without defensive tackle Beau Allen (ankle) and linebacker Anthony Nelson (hamstring).
Offensive tackle Donovan Smith (knee) is doubtful and linebacker Devin White (illness) is questionable.
Now time for the prediction.
I think this game could be a shootout, with both teams scoring 28 or more. I could also see this game being one-sided with Winston thoroughly out playing Blough and the Buccaneers running away with it.
I’m going to choose right in between. Detroit will keep it close through the first half with both teams having multiple scoring drives before halftime. Tampa Bay will come out firing on all cylinders in the second half, though, and end up winning by two scores.
Chris Godwin will be too much to handle for Darius Slay and former Lion Ndamukong Suh will sack Blough once or twice in his return to the Motor City. The Buccaneers will get to .500 while the Lions will lose their seventh consecutive contest and inch closer to the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
Buccaneers 34, Lions 20.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.