Free NFL Pick: Detroit at Buccaneers 12-19-2010

December 18, 2010

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Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday December 19th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Tampa Bay -5

Overview:

At 8-5, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have exceeded everyone’s expectations. Even so, they have to win this game if they have any shot at making the playoffs. They are three games behind the division leading Atlanta Falcons, so while winning the division is an unobtainable goal, they could squeak past the Saints and slip into a Wild Card spot. The Bucs would have to beat the Saints in New Orleans to do so, but if they can manage victories over the Lions and Seahawks, they will probably remain alive heading into Week 17.

The 3-10 Lions have no shot at the playoffs. This is a year of rebuilding, once again. They have the pieces to be a force in the NFL moving forward, but they will need a few more years to build a competitive football team. It appears as though they will be one of the teams at the top of the draft, so snagging an elite left tackle or shut down corner could be in their immediate future.

Keys to the Game:

  • The Bucs are going to have a tough time adjusting to the onslaught of injuries acquired in recent weeks. They are missing Quincy Black, Gerald McCoy, Jeff Faine, and Akib Talib to name a few. If the Bucs have any hope of succeeding in the next few weeks, somebody is going to have to step up and be the guy. The Bucs have been getting it done all season long with young talent, but it will be a testament to their resiliency if they can pull it off with sub par talent and youth.
  • The Lions dominated Green Bay defensively last week, holding them to only three points. Sure, Green Bay was without Aaron Rodgers for most of the game, but the Lions dominated the line of scrimmage and gave the Packers no chance to take advantage of Detroit’s struggling offense. Ndamukong Suh may not have had a sack, but he led the defensive line to victory by handling the Packers up front. An inexperienced interior line for Tampa Bay is going to struggle to keep Suh in check.
  • Josh Freeman will need to get out of the pocket. He does well when he throws on the run and gives himself extended time on pass plays by rolling out. Freeman has 17 touchdowns this season with only six interceptions. While he may not be putting up 300 yard games on a regular basis, Freeman remains poised and gives his team the opportunity to come away with a victory. He shouldn’t find himself trying to do too much, and if he can learn anything from the film last week, it will that sliding is encouraged.
  • Who is Calvin Johnson going to be matched up against? With Talib out, the Bucs have the option of putting Rhonde Barber on Johnson, a matchup that guarantees Johnson will be able to blow past the secondary. They could also put second year pro E.J. Biggers on Johnson, who gives up five inches to Johnson, despite having good size for a corner. Either way, Johnson is going to have the upper hand in this matchup. Safety help will obviously come, but it is imperative even in double coverage that Johnson sees some sort of resistance at the line of scrimmage. Nobody on the Bucs can provide that with a guy like Johnson.

Key Matchup:

LeGarrette Blount Vs. Lions front four

  • The Lions did a solid job up front in controlling the line of scrimmage. While The Bucs don’t necessarily have a better offensive line than the Packers do, the certainly have a better running game. LeGarrette Blount is a huge back who can be a work horse and has proven his worth in his rookie season. Even so, Blount does not match up well against the Lions defense.
  • The Lions have the strength of their defense up front. Backs who pride themselves on being physical backs excel because they are difficult to bring down at the second level. There is a possibility that Blount will not be able to reach the second level, as Detroit is stout up front against the run and pass. Blount rarely struggles to pick up positive chunks of yardage consistently, so although this isn’t the optimum team for him to face, he has seen better front sevens and handled them well.

Wrap Up:

The Bucs are in the position they are in because they have the ability to beat sub par teams. they still have yet to win a game against a team with a winning record, but have not lost a game against any team with a losing record. Despite their injuries, it doesn’t look like that trend should break here. As long as they can find a way to hold Calvin Johnson to under 150 yards, they should win this game easily.

Free NFL Pick: Buccaneers -6


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