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 Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
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Post Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MLive wrote:
5 things to watch: Detroit Lions will get close look at one-time draft target Mike Evans

By Kyle Meinke | kmeinke@mlive.com
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on December 03, 2014 at 4:59 AM, updated December 03, 2014 at 9:57 AM

ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions continue to control their path to an NFC North title.

But a flop against the 2-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers would deliver a critical blow to their chances of overtaking the red-hot Green Bay Packers, who all of the sudden look like the best team in the NFL.

Here are five things to watch this week as Detroit (8-4) prepares to host Tampa Bay on Sunday at Ford Field:

1. Remember Mike Evans?
The Lions really liked Mike Evans in this year's draft, and almost certainly would have selected the Texas A&M wideout had he been there at No. 10. But Tampa Bay took him three spots before Detroit was on the clock.

And that's going to be a problem for the Lions this week. While their first-round pick, Eric Ebron, has struggled with his health and production, Evans has been a terror. He's caught a touchdown pass in each of the past four games -- something no rookie has done in a decade -- and has eight scores overall. That's more than anyone on Detroit's roster, and twice as many as anyone not named Calvin Johnson.

Evans has 53 receptions for 890 yards overall. (Ebron, by the way, has 19 for 171 yards and one touchdown.) And at 6-foot-5, he is going to present at tough matchup for whoever draws that unenviable assignment.

2. Can lightning strike twice?
Jim Caldwell has been adamant that fans should not expect Matthew Stafford to repeat his Bears performance every week. After all, a 75.6-percent completion percentage, 390 yards, two touchdowns and no picks is tough to repeat whether your name is Stafford or Thomas Edward Patrick Brady.

OK. So don't expect that.

But it also shouldn't be asking too much for the Lions to look competent for a second straight week on offense. They rattled off 35 points in the opener, then took the next 10 weeks off.

A reversion to that form would be unacceptable, given that Detroit is healthy, playing at home and facing the 2-10 Bucs.

3. The real McCoy
Ndamukong Suh will be forever linked to Gerald McCoy because they went Nos. 2-3 in the 2010 draft, and both play the same position at a high level. A really, really high level.

In fact, for as much as people around here talk about Suh's greatness, McCoy has been even better each of the past three seasons according to ProFootballFocus. McCoy was the No. 2 defensive tackle in 2012 (trailing only Geno Atkins), No. 1 in 2013 and is No. 2 this season (trailing Aaron Donald).

So just think about how good Suh has been for Detroit. And that's basically what the Lions' offensive line has to deal with Sunday.

That offensive line has seen some bad days this season, but played better of late despite suffering injuries to left tackle Riley Reiff and right guard Larry warford. And it'll need to continue to play well to weather Tampa Bay's defense, which has been on the rise.

4. Tampa's D improving
Caldwell insists Tampa Bay is better than its record indicates, and that could be true on at least one side of the ball. The Bucs have surged from last to 20th in defense over the past month. They allowed 18.2 points per game in that span.

For comparison, Detroit has allowed 17.3 points per game for the season. And that leads the league.

Make no mistake, the Bucs should be beaten. The only NFC team to gain fewer yards than them is Minnesota, and no one is averaging fewer points. They should be totally overmatched on offense.

But their defense can play a little bit of ball, and should not be overlooked.

5. Let Tampa beat itself
The Lions have owned the fourth quarter for much of the season. The Bucs ... have not. Their latest blunder was a 12 men on the field penalty last week, which nixed a 21-yard pass that would have given them the ball at the Bengals' 20 with 26 seconds left. They lost by one point.

And the disarray doesn't end there. From the Tampa Bay Times: "Whether it's Mike Evans not able to get off the field after an injury against the Rams which led to a game-ending 10-second runoff, or Johnthan Banks with a hands-to-the-face penalty on a crucial third-down play at New Orleans, or Austin Seferian-Jenkins fumbling on the first play of overtime against Minnesota, or second-and-1 failures in the fourth quarter at Cleveland and Chicago, the Bucs haven't handled late-game situations well."

This Tampa team has some bonafide playmakers, such as McCoy and Evans. But there are so many holes, they'll eventually beat themselves. Detroit, meanwhile, has staged dramatic fourth-quarter comebacks in three of its past six games.

http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/20 ... ion_6.html

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December 3rd, 2014, 4:17 pm
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Post Re: Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MLive wrote:
Tampa Bay, by the numbers: Starting Josh McCown defies statistic-based logic
By Gillian Van Stratt | gvanstratt@mlive.com
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on December 02, 2014 at 4:00 PM
At the beginning of each week, we'll take an early look at Detroit's upcoming opponent by zeroing in on some interesting numbers.

This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

80.9
The average amount of receiving yards per game for Tampa Bay rookie wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans has 53 receptions for 890 yards, which is three more receptions and 182 yards more than any other receiver on the Tampa Bay Roster (Vincent Jackson has 50 receptions for 702 yards). When it comes to the end zone, Evans is the main man. In his first year in the league, he has eight touchdowns, which is six more than any other wide receiver, running back or tight end on the roster. Evans caught at least one touchdown pass in four straight games (at Cleveland, vs. Atlanta, at Washington and at Chicago), which is tied for the longest streak by a rookie in the last 10 seasons.

3
The amount of points Tampa was able to get out of three interceptions against Cincinnati. Buccaneers cornerbacks Johnathan Banks, Brandon Dixon and Alterraun Verner all had interceptions in Tampa's 14-13 loss to the Bengals. But the Buccaneers offense was only able to turn them into one field goal, and even that was due to the fact that Banks returned his interception 32 tads to the Cincinnati nine-yard line.

1-3
Tampa Bay's record since making 35-year-old Josh McCown its starting quarterback. McCown started the season for Lovie Smith and went 0-2 (to Carolina and St. Louis) before injuring his thumb in Week 3 versus Atlanta. Smith then turned to Mike Glennon -- whom the Bucs took in the third round of the 2013 draft. Glennon then went 1-4 in games he started, throwing 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. In Week 10 against Atlanta, after losing four in a row, Smith went back to McCown, believing he gives the Bucs their best chance to win. McCown has thrown fewer touchdowns than Glennon (7), more interceptions than Glennon (9) and has a worse QBR (75.1). The one thing helping McCown's case? Rookie superstar Evans has had his best games with McCown under center. Four of his six touchdown receptions in the past four games have been thrown by McCown.

-8.6
The abhorrent grade (as calculated by ProFootballFocus.com) for Tampa Bay center Garrett Gilkey following the Cincinnati loss. Buccaneers beat writers claim the McCown-Glennon debate isn't even the right one to have considering the state of the team's offensive line. Against the Bengals, Gilkey fumbled the snap twice "by dribbling the ball back along the ground and lobbing several more dangerously low." Gilkey was also flagged four times (holding and false starts).

4
The number of blown leads the Bucs have over the past five weeks. The month of November was brutal for Tampa Bay, who's in an NFC South division where the first-place team (the Atlanta Falcons) are only 5-7. After starting the month by blowing fourth-quarter leads in back-to-back games, the Buccaneers ended it Sunday by blowing double-digit leads in back-to-back games. They were up 17-16 in the 4th quarter against Cleveland and lost 22-17. They were up 17-16 in the 4th quarter against Atlanta and lost 27-17. They were up 10-0 at halftime against Chicago and lost 21-13. Most recently, they were up 10-0 on the Bengals this past Sunday and lost 14-13. If Detroit and Tampa are close heading into the fourth quarter this coming Sunday, season trends suggest the Lions will be more confident they can close the deal. Matthew Stafford has led the Lions on three game-winning drives in the fourth quarter this season, two of them against the NFC South (Atlanta and New Orleans).

http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/20 ... mbers.html

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December 3rd, 2014, 4:19 pm
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Post Re: Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ESPN wrote:
Practice report: Lions fairly healthy entering Week 14
December, 3, 2014
By Michael Rothstein | ESPN.com

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- After almost two months in which one position group or another was pretty beat up, the Detroit Lions are heading into December mostly healthy and intact.

The only Lions player not practicing during the open portion of practice was defensive tackle Nick Fairley. That means right guard Larry Warford (knee), left tackle Riley Reiff (knee) and running back Reggie Bush (ankle) were all working out at least somewhat during the media portion.

It appeared all three were working fully as well -- potentially good signs for their returns Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Reiff missed one game on Thanksgiving against Chicago. Warford has been out for three weeks and Bush has been banged up for the past two months.

How much they practiced won't be known until the team's official injury report comes out later Wednesday.

http://espn.go.com/blog/detroit-lions/p ... ng-week-14

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December 3rd, 2014, 4:24 pm
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Post Re: Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Full practice for everyone except Fairley (NP) and CJ (LP - hopefully just the usual pre-game rest, rather than indicative of anything more serious).

Lions looking healthier than they have done in quite a while.

POS. NAME INJURY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY STATUS
DT Nick Fairley knee NP
WR Calvin Johnson ankle LP
RB Reggie Bush ankle/back FP
T Riley Reiff knee FP
G Larry Warford knee FP


December 4th, 2014, 4:21 am
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Post Re: Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ESPN wrote:
Lions vs. Buccaneers preview
December, 4, 2014
By Michael Rothstein and Pat Yasinskas | ESPN.com

When: 1 p.m., Sunday Where: Ford Field, Detroit TV: Fox

Tampa Bay came into Detroit last season as a struggling team trying to salvage a season and ended up stunning the Detroit Lions, who at the time appeared to be headed to the playoffs.

This season, the Buccaneers are once again struggling. The Lions are once again looking like a team that could make a strong playoff push. Can Tampa Bay knock Detroit off the playoff path for the second straight season? Or do the Lions build on their best overall performance of the season on Thanksgiving against Chicago?

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein and Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas take you inside the matchup in this week’s preview.

Rothstein: Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been saying for days now how tough this Tampa Bay team is despite its record. So what’s been the issue here? Is there one overarching thing that has gone wrong with the Buccaneers?

Yasinskas: I don't think you can put all the blame on any single area. It's been a combination of many things, and Caldwell is right that this team might be better than its record. There's plenty of individual talent with the likes of Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Mike Evans. But the Bucs were slow to pick up Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 scheme, and the offense never has gotten into a true rhythm since losing coordinator Jeff Tedford to a leave of absence at the end of the preseason. The defense has improved in the second half of the season, but the offense remains dreadful.

Obviously, things are much different in Detroit with the Lions at 8-4. What's been going right for the Lions?

Rothstein: A lot of everything, run game excluded. The Lions really bought Jim Caldwell’s message from the outset, and his calming demeanor has really, really helped. Players are convinced that was at least part of the reason they were able to win three straight games with scores in the final two minutes. Add into that a defense that is completely adaptable and somewhat impenetrable against the run, and that’s a large reason why Detroit is 8-4 heading into the final month of the season. The past two weeks are good examples of that, as both New England and Chicago essentially abandoned the run early as part of the game plan. That’s where teams are right now.

Looking at the Tampa offense, Evans is a guy the Lions were looking at in the draft before the Bucs scooped him up. How has he matured throughout the season? He already seems to be an effective weapon.

Yasinskas: Evans has been the brightest spot in a very disappointing season. He jumped immediately into the starting lineup and has made rapid progress. He's outproducing Vincent Jackson, and the Bucs believe Evans eventually will be a very good No. 1 receiver. For now, they're content to have him in tandem with Jackson. They form a combination that can create a lot of matchup problems for defensive backs because they both are 6-foot-5. Throw in tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who is the same height, and you almost have an NBA front line. That's tough to defend if you've got 5-10 or 5-11 defensive backs.

The Lions have endured a lot of shuffling on their offensive line. I know Riley Reiff and Larry Warford have been banged up, and Cornelius Lucas and Travis Swanson have been getting playing time. How are Reiff and Warford coming along, and how is the line shaping up for Sunday?

Rothstein: As of now it would appear Swanson will get at least one more start at right guard before Warford, who was Detroit’s best lineman this season before his injury, really has a shot to return to the lineup. Reiff also could return this week, as Lions coach Jim Caldwell indicated Reiff would have been a lot closer to returning if Detroit had played Sunday instead of last Thursday.

But Swanson and Lucas have both done fairly well -- Lucas, especially, against Jared Allen on Thanksgiving -- in place of Warford and Reiff. This is actually a better sign for Detroit’s future, considering center Dominic Raiola and left guard Rob Sims are in the final years of their contracts. But for now, Detroit will take having offensive line depth, something that ends up being critical when big bodies start to break down toward the end of the year.

Looking at Tampa’s defense, the Bucs had Darrelle Revis on defense to handle Calvin Johnson. What do the Buccaneers do this season -- especially since it seems like Tampa has allowed quarterbacks of every type to complete a high percentage of passes this season?

Yasinskas: Obviously, Revis is gone, so there won't be any dramatic, one-on-one matchup with Johnson. The Bucs have switched to a Tampa 2 defense, and trying to cover Johnson will be a collaborative effort. Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks have been playing well lately, but they'll need plenty of help from the safeties. The Bucs have allowed a high percentage of completions, but that's part of the Tampa 2 scheme. The philosophy is to allow short passes and prevent long ones. Then again, that formula hasn't always worked to perfection for the Bucs this season.

What's been the key to Detroit's defensive turnaround this season?

Rothstein: There hasn’t been one key but a number of factors. It starts with defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who has been able to mask every defensive injury the Lions have had this season (Stephen Tulloch, Nick Fairley, nickel corners, James Ihedigbo for three games) and has been exceptional at playing to his players’ strengths. The Lions have also gotten better pressure from their defensive line, led by Ndamukong Suh and an emerging star in defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. This has allowed Detroit’s secondary to cover just a hair of a second less and allowed them to make breaks on quarterbacks’ mistakes.

It’s been a group effort, though, with the Lions.

Quote:
Buccaneers at Lions: Stats of the Week
.214
Matthew Stafford's winning percentage in December, lowest among any quarterback since 2001 with at least 10 starts. He's 3-11.

6.5
That's the number of sacks by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy over the past six weeks, and he has 8.5 sacks on the season. He's aiming to become the first Tampa Bay player to record double-digit sacks in a season since Simeon Rice in 2005.


http://espn.go.com/blog/detroit-lions/p ... rs-preview

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December 4th, 2014, 11:22 am
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Post Re: Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wont be able to watch this game neither. Old me would have taken the day off of work just so I can watch the Lions and it would KILL me if I couldnt see it.. I actually just found out last week Warford was out... I'm losing it.

Go Lions

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December 4th, 2014, 7:16 pm
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Post Re: Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Their LT. is hurt and won't play. Ansah going to have a monster day?


Is this the week our defense pitches a shut out?


December 6th, 2014, 11:44 pm
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