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O'HARA'S FRIDAY FOCUS: Same mantra, different circumstances for Lions

It's still the one-game-at-a-time mantra for the Detroit Lions, but they are at a point in the season where the consequences have changed, and not for the better.

With a 6-6 won-loss record and four games left going into Sunday's road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Lions are treading on a razor-thin edge in their bid to make the playoffs for the second straight year and third time in four years under head coach Jim Caldwell.

The Lions got a boost Thursday with quarterback Matthew Stafford's participation in practice. He was limited in Wednesday's practice because of an injury to his right (passing) hand sustained late in last week's loss to Baltimore.

Stafford showed some modifications in form in the portion of practice open to the media. He used his left hand on some handoffs in running drills, but he had timing and velocity in the passing drills.

The Lions have a lengthy injury list, but nothing is more important than having Stafford back for the final stretch run. Wide receiver Golden Tate expressed confidence in backup Jake Rudock after he ran most of practice Wednesday, but there is no replacement for Stafford's experience and ability.

As Tate put it: "That arm is one of a kind."

Stafford's work Thursday was a positive sign that barring a setback he will keep his iron-man streak alive and make his 109th consecutive regular-season start on Sunday.

Breakdown/prediction: The Lions are buoyed by Stafford's progress, but that doesn't erase the reality that they are 6-6 with him because of their other issues. They haven't been sharp on a consistent basis all year, and the defense hasn't been able to get pressure on the quarterback or create turnovers.

However, the Lions' strength is throwing the ball, and the Bucs can be exploited. They rank 31st in the league in yards allowed overall, 31st in passing yards and dead last in sacks with only 17.

The Bucs are the right opponent at the right time for the Lions.

Pick: Lions 27, Bucs 17.

Series history: The Lions have a 30-26 series lead in the regular season and have won three of the last four. They won the last two road games -- 23-20 in overtime in 2010 and 27-20 in 2011.

Take a look back at pictures from many of the showdowns between the Lions and Buccaneers over the years.

Bucs' franchise milestone: It was 40 years ago this month – Dec. 11, 1977 to be exact – that the Bucs won their first game in franchise history. They lost their first 26 games after entering the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1976 before beating the New Orleans Saints, 33-14, on the road.

The Bucs scored three defensive touchdowns, on returns of two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Saints quarterbacks Archie Manning and Bobby Scott each had three passes intercepted.

Lions focus – catching on: The Lions have a level of balance and depth in their wide receivers that might make the unit even more dangerous as a group than when Calvin Johnson was in his prime.

Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate and rookie Kenny Golladay all rank No. 1 in significant individual categories. Their varying skills, combined with depth from such players as TJ Jones, Theo Riddick's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and recent production from the tight ends gives Stafford an array of options to spread the ball around to his playmakers.

"It's nice to have some guys with some different strengths," said offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. "It lets us be a little more flexible offense with the plays I can call, and maybe the passes that Stafford can make or choose to make."

Here's how the receivers rank No. 1, and the categories:

Marvin Jones Jr.: 17.1 yards per catch is No. 1 among receivers with at least 45 catches. Jones is 13th overall with 821 receiving yards and tied for fourth in TD catches with eight. He is one behind three players tied for the league lead with nine each – Antonio Brown of the Steelers, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks and DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans.

Golden Tate: No. 1 among wide receivers with 457 yards after the catch. Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs is second with 388. Tate is eighth in the league with 71 catches and needs 19 for his fourth straight season with 90 or more catches.

Kenny Golladay: Only 15 catches, but No. 1 among all rookies in average yards per catch (21.5) and catches of 40 yards or longer (4).

"Since we started building this team, you can definitely tell we've got a bunch of playmakers -- a bunch of guys catching the ball all over the field," Tate said.

Bucs focus – real McCoy: Gerald McCoy is still going strong in his eighth season, and comparisons with him and Ndamukong Suh are as valid as ever. They've been two of the league's best interior linemen since coming into the NFL together in the 2010 draft.

Suh was drafted second overall by the Lions and departed for Miami as a free agent in 2015. McCoy was taken third overall and has spent all eight seasons with the Bucs.

McCoy is having another strong season at defensive tackle in what has been a disappointing season overall for the Bucs and their defense. McCoy leads the Bucs with five sacks, which is almost one third of the puny team total of 17 – fewest in the league.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter doesn't look at stats alone to rate McCoy's performance, and what it should mean to Tampa Bay's defense.

"Gerald's one of the top D-tackles in the league," Koetter said this week. "As you guys (the Detroit media) know from your days having Ndamukong Suh that guy gets double teams a lot. So it can get frustrating for him at times.

"That should open up some other guys to get single-blocked, but Gerald's still playing at an extremely high level."

No one has taken advantage of McCoy's presence inside to pressure the quarterback. Next highest on Tampa Bay's sacks list are rotation linemen Clinton McDonald and Will Clarke with two each.

"We're not getting home right now," Koetter said. "Our rush and our coverage are just not working in conjunction with each other, and we haven't done as good a job at this this year."

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