Detroit News scouting report: Buccaneers at Lions

Detroit News

Matt Schoch
 |  Special to The Detroit News

Buccaneers at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Saturday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: NFL Network/760 AM

Records: Buccaneers 9-5; Lions 5-9

Line: Buccaneers by 9.5

Matt Schoch breaks down the Lions’ Week 16 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for The Detroit News:

Key matchup

TOM BRADY AGAINST THE LIONS

Don’t kid yourself into thinking much of this matters from a Detroit perspective other than theater.

Along those lines, how about the joys of watching Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest football player in history and a proud Michigan graduate to boot?

Brady and the Bucs have outplayed his old team in New England this year, a nice feather in the cap for a man whose cap is runneth over with feathers.

More: Lions coaching staff shuffled as Bevell set to miss Saturday’s game due to COVID

Brady made his career debut at Ford Field on Thanksgiving 2000, going 1-for-3 in mop-up duty late. That came after Bryant Westbrook sent Drew Bledsoe to the bench with a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 34-9 Detroit rout of New England behind Charlie Batch.

That was Brady’s only game action of his rookie year, and he’s been avenging that loss ever since.

Buccaneers to watch

►Tom Brady, QB: Again, watch Tom Brady. The legend is 4-2 against the Lions, who will have research assistant Evan Rothstein calling plays against the GOAT. Only the Lions. In year No. 21, Brady will hit 4,000 yards for the 12th time. However, his 11 interceptions have him flirting with his career high of 14. He has a great cast of wide receivers including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown.

►Rob Gronkowski, TE: It’s not just the wideouts who have been helping Brady. Old friend Gronkowski came out of retirement to get the band back together. Gronk has been productive with 41 catches for 536 yards and five touchdowns. However, his 13.1 yards per catch is the lowest since his rookie season.

►Ndamukong Suh, DT: The former Lions dominant defender is 33 and now on his fourth NFL team. Suh’s five sacks matches his best season since 2016. The Tampa D-line also includes more veteran big names in Jason Pierre-Paul and William Gholston (Detroit Southeastern, Michigan State).

Facts and figures

► The Tampa Bay rush defense is best in the NFL, surrendering just 3.4 yards per carry, nearly half-a-yard better than the next-best team. Hope you’re not counting on D’Andre Swift for your fantasy football championship.

► Coach Bruce Arians must be great at the halftime speech — or at least the halftime adjustments. The Bucs have the NFL’s best second-half point differential, outscoring foes by 99 points after halftime.

► Among the places the Lions’ defense will struggle is the red zone. Brady and the Bucs lead the NFL there, scoring points in 51 of their 53 trips to the scoring area (96.2%).

Matt Schoch is a writer for PlayMichigan.com and freelances for The Detroit News.

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