Three weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winless and rife with MRSA, were the NFL's walking, disease-filled punch line. All of a sudden, things have changed a bit. Following two wins, the Buccaneers have found confidence. That turns a game which once seemed like a sure thing for the Detroit Lions into what could be a real battle.
As it turns out, the Buccaneers aren't completely horrible, after all. They're playing solid defense behind a young quarterback which has survived his first two road tests admirably. Worst of all for Detroit, they've got nothing to lose, meaning they'll be hungry. What else does Tampa Bay have going? Here's a look.
Buccaneers Offensive Difference Maker: Mike Glennon, QB. Ever since Tampa Bay made the controversial decision to ditch Josh Freeman earlier this year, Glennon has done nothing but get better week by week. He's tossed eight touchdown passes to only one interception, and has looked cool under pressure in the pocket. Glennon won't be fazed on the road, either. He withstood the boisterous "12th man" in Seattle without making any mistakes, and he's thrown four touchdowns to no interceptions in both his road games. Tampa will need Glennon to be just as good at managing the game against the Lions, considering they have proven to be a team which hits quarterbacks and forces mistakes. Don't count on Glennon being easily rattled just because of environment, however.
Buccaneers Defensive Difference Maker: Darrelle Revis, CB. There's no doubt Revis is still one of the best cover corners in the league, and he's still good enough to be considered "Revis Island." He should command the responsibility of covering Calvin Johnson. There have been some cracks this season, though, as the Buccaneers have given up 19 passing touchdowns through the air, which is the fifth highest total in the league. Still, Revis is a dangerous foe for Matthew Stafford. Detroit's offense looked lost when Johnson was eliminated in the second half in Pittsburgh. If Revis can wipe him out of the game, the Lions' offense will have to have players step up in crunch time which didn't last week.
Buccaneers Major Problem: Offensive efficiency. There are growing pains that come with starting a rookie signal caller and seeing a top running back depart with injury, that's for sure. The Buccaneers haven't been a prolific passing offense, as they only average 192 passing yards per-game which has helped push their points per-game to a paltry 18.7. That should be a nice break for the Lions' secondary, which has had its notable problems giving up touchdowns lately. Tampa runs the ball a bit better than they throw it, but without Doug Martin and Mike James, that has taken a hit as well. In order to win, the Buccaneers will have to do something offensively that they haven't done consistently all season: score plenty of points.
Buccaneers Major Strength: Run defense and sacks. What Tampa may lack through the air they make up for in the trenches. Led by Gerald McCoy, the Buccaneers front has fought their way to a top 10 run defense in the league this year. Tampa also has collected 22 sacks (six more than Detroit's defensive line) and can pressure the quarterback in an underrated way. It will be an interesting day for Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and company, as they will have their hands full running and protecting against the Buccaneer defensive attack.
Intangibles: Nothing to lose. Winners of their last two games, the Buccaneers have some momentum. Considering they're on the outside looking in of the NFC playoff race, they have nothing to lose and can play a relaxed game free of pressure. The Lions, meanwhile, have everything in the world to lose, considering what happened last week. If Tampa rolls in loose and confident, they could catch Detroit feeling overconfident.
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