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Week 16 opponent: What the Buccaneers are saying

Every week during the regular season we get an opportunity to talk with the opposing head coach via Zoom. This week it was Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians. I also scanned the Tampa Bay media websites and the Bucs website to see what else Tampa Bay players and coaches are saying about this week's matchup with the Lions.

Here's what they had to say:

1. When asked about Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Arians said Stafford is one of the few players he'll sneak out to watch go through warmups before the game, just to watch him throw, because Arians thinks Stafford's arm talent is so special. Arians said he's considered Stafford one of the top five quarterbacks in the league for a long time.

"He's one of my all-time favorite guys," Arians said of Stafford.

Arians also commented on Stafford's toughness and how Stafford's teammates know he'll "suck it up" to go play for them.

2. While the Lions were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss last week in Tennessee, Tampa Bay comes to Detroit with a lot to play for. Tampa Bay would become the fourth NFC team to qualify for the playoffs if they beat the Lions and get their 10th win. A loss by Chicago to Jacksonville would also get the Bucs into the playoffs, no matter what happens in Detroit.

"It feels really good to be in a position to make the playoffs," Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin told this week. "We still have a lot of work to do, and it's been a long year, but we have a lot of resilient guys in this locker room. It feels like it's been a long time coming, and we're looking forward to the opportunity this week to really solidify our playoff spot."

3. Arians lamented the fact that his team has to travel to Detroit on Christmas to play a Saturday game. He said he planned to have all the players out of the building by 1 p.m. on Thursday, and isn't having them report back until Friday afternoon for the flight. He said he wanted them to have at least 24 hours with their families before flying out.

4. Talented Bucs running back Ronald Jones is unlikely to return from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for Saturday's game in Detroit, per the Tampa Bay Times.

Left tackle Donovan Smith, who did not play Sunday in Atlanta because he came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, will return to practice today, according to the paper.

Jones, who leads the Bucs with 900 rushing yards, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last Wednesday. Players who had a positive test must miss at least 10 days even if they have no symptoms. He's also dealing with a broken pinkie finger on his left hand. He had a surgical procedure to have a pin placed in that finger, and Arians said they have to see him in practice with the injury before he can play. The Bucs rushed for only 51 yards on 18 carries last week without Jones.

5. Arians said that he and veteran quarterback Tom Brady are still learning little things about each other every week, just in terms of some of the game plans and situational football that they talk out. Arians said he's really enjoyed the collaboration. Brady brought the Bucs back from a 17-point deficit last week against Atlanta. Arians said that if they just protect Brady, he showed in the second half last week he's still one of the best in the league, even at age 43.

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