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O'HARA'S DIVISIONAL ROUND PREVIEW: Goff, Lions keeping calm as pressure ramps up

Jared Goff is a man in the spotlight, or so it would seem.

But as the quarterback of the Detroit Lions, he seems almost immune to the pressure of being the man most responsible for the Lions' success or failure as they move upward in the NFL playoffs.

They have a chance to take another step up in Sunday's Divisional Round game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field.

With opportunity comes pressure, and Goff is well acquainted with both as a veteran quarterback.

"The games go on," Goff said, when asked about handling the pressure of his position. "The importance and magnitude of them keeps going up.

"This one's no different. They keep getting more and more at stake. You handle them just like all the other ones. It's what I've been doing my whole life, just pitch and catch."

Goff has become a top five NFL quarterback – in my opinion – since coming to the Lions in 2021 in a trade with the Rams.

Goff has shown he's a quarterback that teams win because of.

He completed 22 of 27 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over the Rams in the Wild Card Round at Ford Field. In the locker room after the game, head coach Dan Campbell threw the game ball to him.

"I'm having a lot of fun," Goff said. "This is the best. This is what you do it for – for times like this. You work all season. You work all offseason to get opportunities like this.

"And we're here now."

A look at the Bucs:

Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield left the playing field Monday night feeling good about what he and his teammates had accomplished to advance in the playoffs but with questions to answer about the next step.

The Bucs eliminated the Eagles from the Wild Card round with a 32-9 win. The Bucs advance to the Divisional Round against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field Sunday.

"I said immediately after the game, we worked extremely hard to get a chance to be in the playoffs," Mayfield said in his postgame press conference.

"We just want an opportunity. Our guys came out and played really, really well. Special teams, defense, once again Chase (McLaughlin) is a stud, defense played lights out. We should have had a lot more points on offense, but we did just enough to get the win.

"We're happy, but we still have more to go."

This will be the Bucs' fourth straight playoff appearance but the first with Mayfield at quarterback. Tom Brady was the quarterback for the previous three. That included the 2020 season team that won the Super Bowl.

The Lions and Bucs met in Week 6 of the regular season— a 20-6 win for the Lions. Mayfield doesn't see either team getting much of an edge from that game.

"We're very different than we were early on in the year," Mayfield said. "That's something to be proud of, that we continued to improve.

"We've gotten better at the little things."

Lions' keys:

Offense: The offensive line faces another tough chore. The Bucs like to blitz and can be disruptive. YaYa Diaby leads the team with 7.5 sacks. Six teammates have at least four of the Bucs' 48 sacks.

Defense: The Bucs have a potent receiving duo in Mike Evans (79 catches, 1,255 yards and 13 TDs), and Chris Godwin (83 catches, 1,024 yards, 2 TDs). The Lions don't want to give up explosive plays.

Overall: The Lions showed in last week's one-point win over the Rams that the playoff stage is not too big for them. They were efficient and never got rattled. They should have a repeat performance.

View photos of the starters for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Lions-Buccaneers prediction:

The Lions are in better health than they were when they beat the Bucs in Week 6. Mayfield has had a full season working with the Bucs' offense.

The Lions are favored by 6.5 points. I see a closer game, with the Lions winning.

My pick: Lions 23, Bucs 21.

Who ya got?

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