In a highly anticipated week six showdown, the Detroit Lions square off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
The NFL has recognized the unexpected significance of this matchup by flexing it to the prime late-afternoon window, ensuring a larger national audience. With that audience, the Buccaneers chose to unveil their iconic ‘Creamsicle’ uniforms for the first time in over a decade.
It’s a fitting showdown, too, with both teams leading their respective divisions for the first time since the 2002 realignment.
General Matchup Notes
As the NFC hierarchy begins to take shape behind the 5-0 Eagles and the 5-0 San Francisco 49ers, the Buccaneers and the Lions have an excellent opportunity to declare that they are also one of the top contenders in the conference.
The Buccaneers’ fast start can largely be attributed to their defense that is currently eighth in the NFL in points allowed. Tampa Bay has also received steady quarterback play from Baker Mayfield, who has completed nearly 70% of his passes with seven touchdowns and just two interceptions.
The Lions show up with a powerful, yet innovative offense led by veteran QB Jared Goff. To pair with the high-powered offense, the Lions top ranked rush defense has helped star DL Aidan Hutchinson to get loose in recent weeks.
Lions Offense vs. Bucs Defense
The Lions have been making a statement with their explosive offense. They’ve started the year 4-1, their best since 2011, and have won three consecutive games by double digits for the first time since 1997. Their offensive line has been the engine that powers the machine, ranking fourth in the NFL in sack percentage.
Jared Goff has orchestrated the offense effectively, and despite missing key players due to injuries, their depth has helped them form a consistent chain-mover.
The key matchup on Sunday will be in the trenches.
The Detroit Lions offensive line, featuring veterans Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, and Penei Sewell, has provided stellar protection for Jared Goff. On the flip side, the Buccaneers will rely on massive nose tackle Vita Vea, a disruptor in the middle of their defense, to put pressure on the Lions’ offense. Also rookie defensive lineman Calijah Kancey has disruptive talent and is expected to make his return.
The Lions’ rushing attack will be led by David Montgomery, who has rushed for 371 yards and six touchdowns in five games.
RB Jahmyr Gibbs and LG Jonah Jackson will not be playing in this game due to injury, so Montgomery will likely get another heavy workload. It’s expected that Graham Glasgow will slide over to left guard, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai will move back into his starting right guard spot. Offensive lineman Colby Sorsdal, Kayode Awosika and Dan Skipper all may be worked into the rotation at some point, too.
The Lions welcome back star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who was forced to miss week five’s game versus the Carolina Panthers.
Despite missing practice earlier this week, rookie tight end Sam LaPorta is also expected to be a full-go on Sunday.
This will be the first time that the Lions’ offense features LaPorta, St. Brown, and electric 2nd-year wide receiver Jameson Williams. Ben Johnson will certainly aim to exploit the mismatches these three create on the offensive end. Defensive backs Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jamel Dean are extremely talented, don’t get me wrong. But when you sprinkle in wide receivers Josh Reynolds, Marvin Jones and Kalif Raymond its difficult for any secondary to slow them down.
Lions Defense vs. Bucs Offense
Wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and speedy rookie Trey Palmer present a significant challenge for any secondary.
The Lions’ defense, led by standout performances from defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, has been a force thus far in 2023. Hutchinson has 4.5 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery through five games. He’s one of the top disruptors in the NFL already.
The secondary, featuring the cornerback tandem of Cam Sutton and Jerry Jacobs and safeties Tracy Walker and Kerby Joseph, will have to continue their strong play with some of the games’ best wide receivers lining up across from them on Sunday. Their ability to maintain tight coverage on those pass catchers, allowing wide-open targets on just 19.0% of throws, has been a key strength that must show up in week six.
The Buccaneers are led by quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has compiled a passer rating of 101.5 and has excelled as the NFL’s most effective passer on third downs. Mayfield’s ability to improvise and make plays under pressure poses a challenge for the Lions’ defense. To counter this, the Lions must be disciplined in their containment when putting pressure on Mayfield and force him to beat them from the pocket.
Moreover, the Buccaneers maintain a commitment to their run game, which will be a focus for the Lions’ defense. Detroit’s defensive tackle, Alim McNeill, will be a key player to watch in disrupting the Buccaneers’ offensive rhythm. The Lions will aim to lock down the Bucs’ run game and make Tampa one-dimensional, forcing Mayfield into a collapsing pocket.
Conclusion and Game Prediction
Both the Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are eager to prove that they are legitimate contenders in the NFC. The Buccaneers are no longer a surprise to the league. The Lions’ resurgence has captured the attention of football fans across the country. As these two teams go head-to-head, the result could have significant implications for their playoff aspirations and positioning later in the season.
The Buccaneers may have the ‘Creamsicle’ uniforms to show off, but the Lions’ balanced offensive attack and ability to shut down the run game will prove decisive in a close game. Prediction: Lions 24, Buccaneers 20
- S Brian Branch (ankle) – OUT
- RB Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring) – OUT
- G Jonah Jackson (ankle) – OUT
- RB Zonovan Knight (shoulder) – OUT
- TE James Mitchell (hamstring) – OUT
- CB Emmanuel Moseley (knee) – OUT
- DL Josh Paschal (knee) – OUT
- CB Khalil Dorsey (illness) – QUESTIONABLE
- TE Sam LaPorta (calf) – QUESTIONABLE
- LB Shaquil Barrett (illness) – QUESTIONABLE
HOW TO WATCH DETROIT LIONS VS. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS:
- Date: Sunday, October 15th, 2023
- Time: 4:25 p.m. EST
- Location: Raymond James Stadium
- TV: Fox
- TV announcers: Adam Amin, Daryl Johnston, Pam Oliver
- Radio: 97.1 The Ticket, List of radio affiliates
- Radio announcers: Dan Miller, Lomas Brown, T.J. Lang
- Online streaming: Also available on fuboTV
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK