What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) vs. Detroit Lions (6-6)
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
When: 1 p.m.
Latest line/Over-under: N/A
Why you should watch
This is another chance for the Bucs to prove they were worthy of all that preseason hype they received and that they really are a better team than their record indicates. Much like the Packers a week ago, the Lions are still in the playoff hunt, though just barely. They are currently seeded eighth behind the Falcons, so this is a must-win game for Detroit. That means it will be good test for the Bucs, who might have passed a similar test a week ago against the Packers were it not for a blocked punt and a boneheaded giveaway by quarterback Jameis Winston. Of course, it’s little things like that that have derailed the Bucs all season long. If they can figure out a way to avoid or just bounce back better from critical mistakes like that the Bucs could still put together a strong finish that will at least provide some promise for 2018.
Key on: Buccaneers RB Doug Martin
Martin is having yet another disappointing season, his fourth in six years with the Bucs. With a 3.2-yards-per-carry average he’s got a lot of people thinking the Bucs made a mistake re-signing him two years ago and that his time in Tampa Bay may be nearing an end. That may indeed be the case, especially with the way Peyton Barber ran last week, but it must be noted that Martin hasn’t received a lot of support from his offensive line, which has done a grossly inadequate job of run-blocking this year. No matter, if Martin wants to remain a part of this team he’s going forward he is going to have to prove over the course of the last four weeks that he is indeed the team’s best back. Few in the Bucs inner circle doubt Martin’s talent, but sooner rather than later, that talent is going to have to lead to better production.
The Buccaneers will go into today’s game ranked 31st in the league in total defense, where they are allowing an average of 385.6 yards per game. Were it not for their play at home, they’d be dead last in the league in that category and by a wide margin. For reasons that neither coordinator Mike Smith nor coach Dirk Koetter can explain, the Bucs have been a far better team defensively at home this year. They’re allowing an average of 324 yards per game there, which isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. That number leaves them 17th overall in the category,. Still, that’s a far cry from where they rank in total road defense, where their per-game allowance of 429.6 yards per game is the league’s worst average. This is just further proof that the Bucs probably are a better team than their record suggests but for whatever reason, they just can’t seem to find a way to play at that higher level every week.
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