The Lions kick off a trio of NFL games this Saturday. Detroit, who was officially eliminated from playoff contention with the loss in Tennessee last week, will try to play the role of spoiler today with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town and needing a win to claim a playoff spot.
It's been a hectic week in Detroit with several coaches missing the game due to close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 positive case. Here are five things to watch out for into today's matchup:
The Lions will have their third head coach this season today. Wide receivers coach Robert Prince will assume head coaching duties Saturday after Darrell Bevell, who was named interim coach after Matt Patricia was let go last month, has been deemed a high-risk close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 positive case.
Along with Bevell, defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, defensive line coach Bo Davis, defensive backs coach Steven Gregory and linebackers coach Ty McKenzie also won't be available to coach Saturday.
Defensive assistant Tony Carter will coach the defensive backs. Director of football research David Corrao will coach the linebackers and William Clay Ford minority coaching assistant Ty Warren will coach the defensive line.
While Prince will assume head coaching duties, quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan will call offensive plays. Head coach assistant/research and analysis coach Evan Rothstein will be the defensive play caller.
There are a lot of moving parts, and it will be interesting to see how the communication between the coaches and players is affected, if at all. What will the offense and defense look like today with two new play callers?
It's really been a tale of two halves for the Buccaneers this season.
Tampa Bay has trailed at the half in eight games this season, and they are 3-5 in those contests, according to NFL Media Research. The Bucs are 6-0 when leading or tied at the half.
They've allowed 14.8 points per game in first half of games and 8.1 per game in the second half. The Bucs have a plus-99 point differential in the second half of games vs. the first half, they've gained 803 more yards of offense in the second half and 29 of their 43 sacks have come in the second half.
Detroit has a number of hurdles to overcome this week, but it's important to start fast today and have a good script early on.
BIG PLAY BUCS
The Buccaneers' offense ranks top seven in the NFL in points per game (28.6), passing yards per game (268.4), red zone touchdown percentage (69.8) and sacks allowed (19).
According to Next Gen Stats, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady has attempted a deep pass on 13.4 percent of passes this season (third highest in NFL). Over the last four weeks, Brady's hit on nine deep passes with three touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 111.6.
The Bucs' passing attack will take their shots down the field, and the Lions have to be prepared for that today. Detroit's allowed too many big plays on defense all year, but particularly the last two weeks.
"That's something that has been talked about while we've been getting ready for the Bucs. The big play," safety Duron Harmon said. "They have three No. 1 receivers, two No. 1 tight ends in (Rob) Gronk (Gronkowski) and (Cameron) Brate. We know it's a big challenge, but we're looking forward to going head-to-head with one of the most talented offenses and most explosive offenses and see where we stack up against (them)."
D’Andre Swift was back to himself last week with 67 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries (4.5 average). The rookie running back also caught four passes. Swift has become a big part of the passing game in Detroit this year, and that's where he could do some damage today. Swift is tied for second in the NFL among running backs with 10 games in which he's been targeted at least four times in the passing game, per Pro Football Focus statistics.
The Buccaneers' defense is extremely stout against the run. They've allowed a league-low 77.8 rushing yards per contest this season. Where opposing offenses have made their hay against this Bucs' defense this year is through the air. Tampa is 25th against the pass (255.3). Watch for Swift to be even more of a factor in the passing game today.
HANDLE THE PRESSURE
The Buccaneers blitz on defense nearly 40 percent of the time, fifth most often in the NFL. The Bucs' 28.4 pressure percentage is top seven in the NFL. Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5), Shaquil Barrett (8.0) and Devin White (8.0) all have at least eight sacks on the year for the Bucs.
Detroit's offensive line protected quarterback Matthew Stafford pretty well last week in Tennessee, but the Titans' defense ranked last in the NFL in sacks. Tampa Bay brings the pressure. Their 43 sacks are the fourth most in the NFL so far this season.
Will the Lions be short two starters along their offensive line today? Center Frank Ragnow, who missed last week's game with a throat injury, is questionable to play today. So is left tackle Taylor Decker, who's dealt with a groin injury all week that's limited his practice time. Those two are Detroit's top offensive linemen. The Lions could certainly use the services of both today against a disruptive Bucs front seven.