Ravaged by injury, the Detroit Lions are going to need to play well to survive this game and to have any chance of making the playoffs.
With the Detroit Lions fate in the hands of other teams, all they can hope to do is win out. If not, the season is all but over for the exception of which position the Lions draft from.
Winning out and missing the playoffs is better than losing the rest of the games and getting a higher draft pick. It matters who you draft, not where. Ending the season strong, starts now.
Out-fox the opposition’s defense
The Lions aren’t the only team slumping as of late. In Week 14, they travel to Tampa Bay to test their luck against the Buccaneers. As bad as the Bucs defense is, they can still come up with turnovers.
Play calling by head coach Jim Caldwell and Jim Bob Cooter has to be better for the Lions because of Matthew Stafford‘s injury to his throwing hand. A running game would help tremendously but with the injuries on the offensive line, it seems highly unlikely the star quarterback will get much help, assuming he plays.
Where Tampa struggles most is defending the pass. If you thought Detroit was bad at rushing the passer and protecting its quarterback, take a look their opponent. Stafford should stay upright most of the game against a weak pass rush, even with a zombie-like offensive line.
Beating the Bucs’ calls on defense will be the key to this match up. Stafford isn’t himself, so getting his play makers open is a must. Once that happens, running the ball good enough in key situations should do the trick.
Score on defense/special teams
Another slow start and the Lions offense could be painful to watch. Most of their victories were because of the defense. Touchdowns via return could be the only way the Lions walk out-of-town with a victory.
Kicker Matt Prater needs to return to God-like status and be perfect from wherever he kicks. Missed points could really hurt Detroit this week.
A huge boost might come in the form of special teamer Jamal Agnew. Regarded as one of the best returners in the game, he could bust this game wide open with his game breaking ability if his knee is feeling good enough to suit up.
Slow down the opponents’ offense
Tampa can rack up yards very quickly. With a talented quarterback like Jameis Winston at the helm and lots of weapons to throw to, Detroit will have their hands full. Getting stops and not allowing the Bucs to convert every drive is the only way the Lions win. Stafford is in no condition to get in a shootout.
If the Lions can rush the passer without sending extra blitzers, which is feasible, Winston and his offense could stall out. Should they need more defenders to add pressure, Detroit’s defense could get sliced up.
The Bucs might posses the best tight end duo in Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard from Alabama. Lions’ linebackers Tahir Whitehead and especially Florida rookie Jarrad Davis have failed to cover tight ends. Wide open/easy completions would spell doom for Detroit should their pass rush fail to generate pressure.
No Matthew Stafford, no victory
Backup quarterback Jake Rudock has no résumé and by last week’s indication, he has a long ways to go. It’s not his fault by any means. Rudock has flashes of a solid backup, but a starter not as much.
Time will make him better, but with the offensive issues that have cursed the Lions all season, Rudock won’t overcome the same struggles Stafford has faced. If Detroit blocked better than maybe this isn’t a conversation.