Detroit Lions vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Preview by the Numbers


Nov 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) makes a diving catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 37-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I mentioned that the Detroit Lions don’t perform especially well when they’re actually expected to perform well.

They went into Heinz Field as favorites and promptly lost to the Steelers by 10.

Now they have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. The Bucs started the season 0-8, but are 2-0 since then. They have more talent than their record indicates. In other words, the Lions can’t fall asleep on this team like they did the Steelers, or the NFC North may no longer be theirs to lose.

This isn’t a matchup that should be difficult for the Lions, but they need to take it seriously to hold serve in the division. They have the talent to beat anyone, but the inconsistency to lose to anyone.

Detroit Lions’ NFL Rankings

All stats pulled directly from

Same as last week, the Lions appear to have a considerable edge on both sides of the ball. In terms of offensive and defensive stats, only the Lions’ rushing offense and passing defense appear in any danger of being overmatched.

Of course, that was also true against the Steelers, and look how that turned out.

There are a couple of interesting wrinkles in here. The Lions continue to be on the wrong side of the turnover margin battle, and they now sport a negative turnover differential for the first time all season. It isn’t that they’re turning the ball over a disproportionate amount, but their ability to force turnovers has dried up.

Also, consider that a large portion of the Bucs’ season has been without star cornerback Darrelle Revis. If he does what he did last time he matched up with Calvin Johnson (go one-on-one and win), the Lions’ passing attack is going to get very complicated. Either way, the Lions will need big games from their secondary receiving targets.

Of course, to counter that, Nate Burleson looks likely to return (but is not confirmed) from his broken arm this week, which will help things should Johnson be contained. The Lions’ defense and the Bucs’ offense should be a matchup of weaknesses. Come Monday, we’ll likely be looking at it as a “get well” game for one unit or the other.

If you want an under-the-radar matchup to watch, look for Bucs DT Gerald McCoy vs. Lions G Larry Warford. With McCoy at Suh-like levels of quarterback pressure this year, this could be the biggest challenge of Warford’s young career.

Lions Fantasy Corner

Nov 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford (9) throws a pass under protection by guard Larry Warford (75) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Pleasant Surprise

Joique Bell had one of his better weeks of the season, with nearly 100 total yards and a touchdown. He continues to play well when his number is called, which makes you wonder why it isn’t called more often. Bell is always a risky play because you can’t be sure what kind of workload he’ll get, but last week he turned out to be worth it.

Bitter Disappointment

Reggie Bush was pulled for fumbling bad weather some reason for most of the second half, but the disappointment really extends to everyone in the second half. Even if you had Calvin Johnson on your team, you were probably expecting an instant win after his massive second quarter, but you were instead treated to a shutout for the rest of the game (which, to be fair, still left him with a pretty good day overall). The offense just shut down for half the game, and that’s on everyone.

Sleeper Pick for Week 11

The Bucs defense is better than it seems, but the the Darrelle Revis-Calvin Johnson matchup raging on all afternoon, the Lions’ secondary receivers are likely to get more targets. Any one of Nate Burleson, Kris Durham, and Brandon Pettigrew could be worthwhile plays this week.

Random Numbers

55 —Number of games between the Lions and Bucs, making Detroit the most common opponent in Bucs franchise history.

3 — Buc running backs with at least 140 rushing yards in a single game this season (Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey)

1 — Number of those running backs available for the Bucs this weekend

59.2 — Matthew Stafford’s completion percentage in 2013

62.1 — Mike Glennon’s completion percentage in 2013

11 — Touchdowns thrown by Glennon in 2013

11 — Touchdowns caught by Calvin Johnson in 2013

3 — Non-quarterbacks with a passing attempt this season for the Bucs (translation: beware of trickery)

118.8 — Incidentally, RB Mike James’ passer rating (in an irrelevantly small sample size)

116 — Receiving yards for Nate Burleson in his last game before injury (at Washington), in case you forgot