NFL

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR NFL PREVIEW Sun: Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Lions go to the Buccaneers having had their best start of any Detroit team since at least 1981 and at 4-1 are in control of the NFC North.

Tampa Bay are also atop their division, the NFC South at 3-1 and that’s a surprise so it’s a game that pitches the leader of the NFC North against the leader of the NFC South. The Lions offence is on fire, averaging 29.6 points per game – fourth best in the league – while the Bucs boast one of the league’s stingiest red zone defences.

The Bucs are holding opponents to a 27.3% efficiency rating in the red zone (second best), and opposing quarterbacks are completing just 33.3% of their passes in the red zone, the best mark in the NFL. Outside of last week’s game against the Panthers, the Lions schedule hasn’t really had any pushovers. Green Bay, Atlanta, Seattle, and Kansas City all have solid, well-coached units.

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A game therefore that presents a conundrum; Detroit’s offence has scored over 30 points in three of their five games, while the Bucs defence has held three of four opponents to 17 points or fewer. Tampa Bay have not been involved in a game this year that combined for more than 44 points, while Detroit games are averaging 53.5 points over the last four weeks. The Bucs are coming off a bye while the Lions look to get back two key offensive weapons. The Bucs defence will present the toughest challenge Detroit has seen this season. Coming off a bye and playing at home, the Bucs have held three of four opponents to 17 points or fewer so far this season, with the only exception being the high-flying Eagles who scored 25 points on them and managed 472 total yards. On the flip side, the Lions offence is clearly the best offence Tampa has faced outside of the Eagles. A strength-on-strength contest but it will give us the chance to find out which is the stronger unit and more importantly which group can validate themselves going forward.

The Lions have plenty of weapons that they can use on offence although they lack real top level talent offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is getting the best out of all the pieces and he’ll be glad to have wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown back this week. There’s no doubt though that Lions QB Jared Goff is far better at home indoors than he is on the road and that may limit the Lions offence a little this week. Goff threw 23 of his 29 touchdown passes at home last year, the biggest disparity between home and road touchdown passes in a season in NFL history. The Bucs have given up the league’s ninth-fewest yards per pass attempt (6.0) and just one passing TD per game.

Establishing the ground game will be important to the Lions and with change of pace rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs missing the game through injury it will be David Montgomery who carries the running attack. Montgomery is no stranger to a big workload having registered touch counts of 21, 17, 34 and 21 so far this year. Montgomery could well rush for 100 plus yards for his third straight game and if that’s the case then his rushing yards line of 75.5 (10-11) is well within his reach despite a stiff Tampa Bay run defence allowing just 379 total rushing yards on the season. No Lions player has rushed for 100 or more yards in three consecutive games since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders (1998). The only teams with more rushing attempts than the Lions (165) are the Eagles (179) and 49ers (173). Given his role in this game it’s not surprising to see Montgomery as the 6-1 market leader in the starsports.bet specials market – Most Rushing Yards on Sunday although at 40-1 D’Onta Freeman (Chicago Bears) would be a sporting play there given he has the Bears backfield to himself in a good matchup against the porous Vikings run D.

The Lions have 26 plays of 20 or more yards, only behind the Dolphins (32) and they have outscored opponents 45-10 in the first quarter this season and 89-37 in the first half, the largest differentials in the league. If they can maintain those differentials then the -3.5 first half handicap for which the Lions are 13-10 certainly looks in play.

Goff will be glad to have his main wide receiver target Amon-Ra St. Brown (ARSB) back in the fold after he was sidelined for Week 5 and ARSB has at least five receptions in every game this year.

At 3-1 the Buccaneers have been one of the NFL’s surprise teams this season but in the Lions will present a different test and the one time Tampa Bay have been presented with a similar test against the Eagles it didn’t go well. They managed only 174 total yards and scored only three points in the first 50 minutes of action. One area where they have been awful this year is in the run game with main RB Rachaad White entering Week 6 having displayed nothing but inefficiency which is borne out in numbers like this surrounding the Bucs run game. 20.2% of the Tampa Bay rushing attempts have resulted in a first down or touchdown, 31st in the league. Here White faces a Lions defence that is rocking this statistic – 28.2% of the rushing attempts against Detroit have gained five or more yards, the lowest rate in the league. The Lions have played near-flawless run defence, holding opposing running backs to the tune of 3.1 yards per carry and two all-purpose TDs in five games.

Tampa Bay QB Baker Mayfield has therefore been doing a good job extending plays with his legs a dimension to the Bucs offence that was never going to happen when Tom Brady was at the helm last year. Mayfield is playing well after a several seasons where the jury was very much out on his talents. Before the bye, he completed a season-high 78.1% of his passes with three touchdowns against the Saints. He even added a season-high 31 rushing yards. Under pressure, he leads the NFL in completion rate (65.7%) and the Bucs have done a good job of protecting him allowing just four sacks.
Mayfield has established a good connection with his wide receivers particularly Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and the Bucs and Mayfield in particular will be hoping that Evans is fit to play in this game (he’s listed as questionable) due to a hamstring injury. The Seahawks and Panthers had some success throwing the ball against the Lions and the Seahawks offence profiles in a similar way to the Bucs. The Lions have allowed the NFL’s 11th-most catches (68) to wide receivers and lost one of their starting cornerbacks Emmanuel Mosley to injury this week.

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There’s no doubt that the 49ers and the Eagles are the dominant sides in the NFC, but the Lions aren’t far behind and whilst both of these two teams lead their divisions Detroit look the stronger in terms of personnel, coaching and game planning. They have scored 20 plus points and registered at least 350+ yards of offence in every game this season and they should do so again here despite the supposedly tough Bucs defence. If the Lions do get rolling in this game the Bucs are going to need their passing game to flourish if they are to keep up. Rather like the Bengals/Seahawks game this one also had potential to go over the points line and is another where in a open week the 10-1 available about it being the highest scoring game in the starsports.bet specials market looks an attractive play.

The Lions are 27-12 ATS under coach Dan Campbell, the best record in the NFL in that span. They are 4-1 ATS this season with three straight covers and it’s not hard to see them winning this one and laying claim to being the third best team in the NFC.

ANDY RICHMOND


RECOMMENDED BETS
BACK David Montgomery over +75.5 rushing yards 1pt at 10/11 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Total match points over +43 2pts at 11/10 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)


PROFIT/LOSS (OCT 2023): LOSS -2.84 points


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