The regular season is finally upon us!
In thinking through the Lions game against the Buccaneers, I came up with five things to watch on Sunday.
1. Bucs Running Game
LeGarrette Blount ripped the Lions in their meeting last season but the Lions have added Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant since then. Their run defense figures to be much better on paper and we’ll get a good chance to see if that is true right out of the gate. Josh Freeman is a capable quarterback but making the Bucs a one-dimensional team will go a long way towards leaving Tampa with another win.
2. Maurice Morris/Jerome Harrison
The running game will be important for the Lions, too. Maurice Morris had a successful day against the Bucs last December and he figures to be in action this Sunday despite missing all of preseason play with a broken hand. Jerome Harrison won a roster spot in training camp and could be a contributor as Morris works his way back into the mix.
3. The Tampa Crowd
The Bucs hold the distinction of hosting the only week one game subject to a local blackout. Will it be a spirited, but small, crowd that cheers twice as loud or will the empty seats be noticeable? The Lions may catch a break in avoiding a hostile environment unless those empty seats start making some noise.
4. Lions Defensive Line
With the Tampa weather forecast calling for temperatures into the nineties on Sunday, the depth along the Lions defensive line could give the Bucs offensive line more problems than usual. The Lions liberal rotation will allow them to stay as fresh as possible while the Bucs offensive line has to deal with the heat on the field.
5. The outcome
It sounds like an obvious point but it is likely at least one of these teams looks back at this game at the end of the season and realizes its importance, for better or worse, in the playoff picture. It isn’t a “must win” or a “make or break” game but any game between playoff hopefuls shouldn’t be minimized.