Lions deserve to be favored over Bucs

by Gary Shelton on January 20, 2024

in general

Godwin needs a big day./TIM WIRT

Saturday, 4 a.m.

The Tampa Bay Bucs are starting to dream. The Detroit Lions’ dream, sadly, may be more realistic.

Baker Mayfield is the league’s best comeback story. Detroit’s Jared Goff did that a year ago, and he’s still writing it.

Drops aside, Mike Evans has been a touchdown machine this year. Amon-Ra St. Brown eats up yardage.

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And so it goes. With every positive the Bucs can make, the Lions can one-up them. They’ve had a better year. They have a better chance on Sunday. Nothing wrong with that.

The Bucs believe they have a slugger’s chance despite losing to Detroit 20-6 in Week Six. Goff was sensational that day (353 yards) while Mayfield was ordinary (206). The Bucs hung around for a while (it was 10-6 midway through the third period), but they lacked punch (no touchdowns).

So it easy for the national oddsmakers to like Detroit in this one. Goff was second in the league with 4,575 yards. Running back  David Montgomery was ninth with 1,015 yards, and Jahmyr Gibbs (945) was 17th. St. Brown was third in receiving yards with 1,515.

Add to that the hungry crowd, who say Detroit win its’ first playoff game in 32 years last week. They’re going to be snarling again.

You know how the Bucs have said they like being the underdogs? Well, they’re going to love Sunday.

On paper, of course, Detroit deserves to be favored. But so did Philadelphia last week, and the Bucs tore them apart. Now, the rhetoric says that Philly had already checked out, and their tackling seems to support that. Still, no one expected a good showing by the Bucs.

Look back, and that loss to Detroit was a disaster for the Bucs. That was the first game in a streak that saw them lose six of seven. Yes, you can suggest that Mayfield hadn’t found his legs, that Dave Canales was still learning his team. The Eagles beat the Bucs in the regular season, too, but last week’s Bucs bore no resemblance to the earlier team it was.

The Bucs need to show similar growth against the Lions. They need big plays from Evans and Chris Godwin. They need Mayfield to be smart and efficient.

Do that, and they can bring the game into the fourth quarter.

Still, if they win, it will be an upset.

Prediction: Detroit 24, Tampa Bay 17.

In other games:

Baltimore 27, Houston 14.

San Francisco 30, Green Bay 20.

Buffalo 24, Kansas City 23.

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