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TWENTYMAN: 5 storylines to kick off the Divisional Round

The Detroit Lions will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field Sunday afternoon in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Lions are the No. 3 seed as the NFC North champions and the Bucs come in as the No. 4 seed as winners of the NFC South.

Here are five storylines for this matchup to kick off the week:


These two teams squared off Week 6 in Tampa with the Lions winning 20-6. It was one of the best performances by Detroit's defense all season. They held the Bucs to just 251 yards of total offense and 46 yards rushing. Tampa Bay was just 2-of-12 converting on third down.

The Lions put up 380 yards of offense including 353 through the air, getting touchdowns from wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown (27 yards) and Jameson Williams (45). It was Detroit's fourth straight win by 14 or more points at the time.

Having played already this season these two teams know each other's personnel and schemes well. There will be some new wrinkles, of course, but winning will likely come down to execution and limiting mistakes.

View photos of the starters for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


For the second straight week we get a matchup of former No. 1 overall draft picks at quarterback. Last week it was Jared Goff vs. Matthew Stafford. This week it's Goff vs. Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield is having a career year in Tampa Bay with highs in passing yards (4,044) and touchdown passes (28), playing all 17 games in the regular season in his first year with the Bucs. He's coming off a 337-yard, three-touchdown performance in Tampa Bay's win over Philadelphia Monday night in the Wild Card round.

In the first matchup against Detroit Mayfield missed a couple opportunities for big plays down the field and finished just 19-of-37 passing for 206 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a 56.8 passer rating.

Goff is the No. 1 reason the Lions are hosting their first Divisional Round game since 1991. He completed 81.5 percent of his passes in the win over the Rams Sunday afternoon with a touchdown and a 121.8 passer rating. Goff had one of his finest passing performances of the season against the Bucs Week 6 throwing for 353 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers.


The Bucs have one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Both were 1,000-yard pass catchers in the regular season.

The Lions have struggled defending the pass over the last month. Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua had nine catches for 181 yards and a touchdown Sunday, the fourth straight week the Lions have allowed a 100-yard receiver.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson had 12 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown against the Lions in Week 18, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb went off for 13 receptions, 227 yards and a score in Week 17, and Jefferson had six catches for 141 yards and a touchdown in Week 16. The Lions were 3-1 in those contests, however.

Godwin caught six passes for 77 yards in the first matchup. Mayfield targeted Evans 10 times but they only connected on four of those for 49 yards. There were a couple times Bucs receivers got behind the Lions' defense that could have gone for big plays but Mayfield overthrew them.


Both teams struggled to run the ball with any consistency or effectiveness in the first matchup.

Tampa's defense held the Lions to a season-low 40 yards rushing on 22 attempts (1.8 average). The Lions didn't have the services of rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs, however, who missed the game due to a hamstring injury. David Montgomery left the game in the second quarter with a rib injury. Both backs are healthy for this matchup. The Buccaneers had the fifth best rush defense in the NFL this season.

Tampa Bay rushed for just 46 yards on 16 attempts (2.9) with Rachaad White held to 26 yards on seven attempts. The Lions had the league's No. 2 ranked run defense in the regular season. Will we have another air-it-out contest or will one of these teams be able to establish the run game?


"It was probably the best I've ever been a part of," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of the atmosphere at Ford Field for Detroit's Wild Card win over the Rams. "It was just four hours of nonstop barrage of the fans just going off."

The noise played a big factor in that game. Los Angeles had to use two timeouts in the second half to avoid delay of game penalties. The Rams could have used those timeouts when the Lions were taking a knee and running out the clock in the final two minutes of the contest.

With a NFC Championship Game on the line, it's expected to be just as loud of an environment inside Ford Field this week, if not more. With Green Bay and San Francisco facing off on Saturday, Detroit will know their destination for the NFC Championship if they can get by the Bucs. If the Packers beat the 49ers and another home game with a chance to go to the Super Bowl is on the line, it will be absolutely electric in Ford Field Sunday afternoon.

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