Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date and Time: Sunday, December 7, 2014 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TB +10/DET -10
Over/Under Total: 41.5
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On Sunday at Ford Field, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet the Detroit Lions in battle of NFC teams. The Lions are 8-4 and poised for a postseason run following a big 34-17 Thanksgiving win over the Bears. It broke a 2-game losing streak and pumped some life into Detroit as they move ahead to the last 4 games of the season. Tampa lost their 7th game in their last 8 tries on Sunday, falling to the Bengals, 14-13.
Tampa is 2-10 and the bottom-line speaks loudest. There still are some positive things theyre building under new head coach Lovie Smith that could pay off down the line. They have a burgeoning two-headed monster at wide receiver with Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans, who is really coming around in recent weeks. And defensively, they havent been awful, giving up only 42 points in their last 3 games.
But Bucs QB Josh McCown hasnt provided the play that the Bucs had been banking on and theyre continuing to struggle to run the ball, as once-promising Doug Martin has become an afterthought, despite running for a TD on Sunday. If looking for silver lining in a game with a double-digit spread, eight of the Bucs losses were by margins less than what this spread is. Theyve actually been competitive in a lot of games, with losses to Atlanta in September and Baltimore in early-October being the only lopsided losses they have suffered.
It was only fair that people were asking some tough questions about Detroit following consecutive losses leading to their win over Chicago on Thanksgiving. After all, in recent campaigns, we had seen Detroit squander promising starts to the season. But they didnt lose to just anybody, in road defeats to Arizona and New England. After beating Chicago and with Tampa, Minnesota, and Chicago again in their next three games, Detroit will have a golden chance to close the season out with flair. They still have a chance to top Green Bay in the division standings, with their finale coming at Lambeau in what should be a high-stakes regular season finale. They did win the first game this season against the Packers. But first things first and they need to come out with some urgency to beat a Tampa team that is pretty scrappy for a 2-win team.
Giving Detroit a different dimension this season is a defense that has really played great, ranked first among all NFL teams in points allowed with just 17.2 per game. They are the best defense against the run in the NFL, allowing a paltry 65.9 yards per game. Its been of great help this season, as the Lions have struggled to establish a run-game, with injuries and inconsistent play rendering running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell a shadow of their form from a season ago. As a team, Detroit is averaging just 3.3 yards per run. So the growth of the defense under first-year coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has really been their saving grace.
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The Lions are still hard to contain aerially. Calvin Johnson appears to be back to his old ways after being injured. On Thanksgiving, he caught 11 balls for 146 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In his absence, Golden Tate emerged as a massive threat in this offense, as he has caught 80 balls for 1136 yards. Seven other ball-catchers have double-digit receptions, as QB Matthew Stafford spreads the ball around well to a full cast of playmakers. Still, with only 15 passing touchdowns, its not exactly the high-flying group of past seasons. The run-game is one of the worst in the NFL and the passing-attack is only the leagues 9th best. In points scored, Detroit is ranked 25th with under 20 points per game. So we see that defense has been a big part of the Lions success this season.
For what its worth, the Bucs have seen both of their victories come on the road, at Washington and Pittsburgh. Combine that with their close losses and Detroit cant afford to fall asleep at the wheel, as is the tendency when facing a 2-10 team. The Bucs lost two games in overtime and dropped 6 other games by 10 or less points. So its hardly a given that the Lions will crush them. And with this spread, theyll need to win conclusively.
Tampa may be bad this year, but its bad with a twist. They seem to be somewhat conscientious in the way theyre building for the future and that reflects in their high level of effort. Its just that Detroit will approach the last quarter of the season with a chip on their shoulder, trying to remove the label of a team that cant be depended on late in the season. The schedule sets up nicely for Detroit, as they face opponents where they can do some damage.. At home and pumped-up, I see the Lions giving the Bucs a lot of trouble on both sides of the ball, en route to a conclusive win and cover.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Detroit Lions minus 10 points.