Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to keep up their late-season surge when they visit the Detroit Lions in Week 15. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 15 at Ford Field in Detroit. Fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on Fox.
Current betting odds list the Buccaneers as 3.5-point road favorites. The over/under for the game is set at 47.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 15 NFL odds.
As mentioned, the Bucs have come on strong late in the season, winning four of their last five games. In fairness, none of the four teams they’ve beaten during that span currently have a winning record, so their success in November and December should be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, two of the four wins have come on the road and last week’s win over an Indianapolis team fighting for a playoff spot was mildly impressive.
Unfortunately for Tampa, their late-season surge has come a little too late. Despite getting back to a reasonable 6-7 on the season, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week. The silver lining is that they have a chance to finish with a winning record if they can win the rest of their games.
As for the Lions, it’s been tough to find too many silver linings after six straight losses. Detroit has just one win since Week 3. They started the season 2-0-1 but have fallen all the way back to 3-9-1. In their defense, they are down to their third-string quarterback and are playing in a division in which the three other teams have a winning record.
It may not be fair, but it’s possible that Matt Patricia will be coaching to keep his job over the final three weeks of the season. He’s bee dealt a tough hand, especially with Matthew Stafford’s injury earlier this season. However, Patricia is just 9-19-1 in less than two full seasons as an NFL head coach. Most of Detroit’s losses this year have come by close margins, but the Lions may need to win a couple of games late in the year to ease some of the pressure off Patricia ahead of Black Monday.
It may not matter as far as the playoffs are concerned, but the Bucs are trending in the right direction and becoming a somewhat reliable betting choice. Even as road underdogs, I’m going to lean toward Tampa Bay in this game. The Lions looked helpless last week and I’m not sure they can stay within a touchdown of the surging Bucs.
It’s worth mentioning that Tampa has some injury concerns with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Winston broke his thumb during last week’s game against the Colts but somehow it didn’t stop him from passing for a career-high 456 yards in a 38-35 win. It appears he’ll make an effort to play through the injury and finish out the season. Evans, on the other hand, is likely to miss the rest of the season, which is a significant hit to the Tampa offense.
The good news for the Bucs is that they should be able to survive without Evans, at least as long as Winston continues to play. Chris Godwin may have actually overtaken Evans as the team’s top receiver. Breshad Perriman also made an impact last week while tight end O.J. Howard has come on strong the past couple of weeks. Perhaps more importantly, Detroit’s pass defense is one of the worst in the league. Even if Winston remains turnover-prone after three interceptions last week, he should do some damage against a porous Detroit secondary.
Unless the Lions can find some answers defensively, they’ll likely be forced to keep up in a shootout. Despite a quality group of skill players, that seems unlikely with David Blough at quarterback. Blough has thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions over his first two career starts. There’s been promise but also plenty of mistakes. The Lions have reason to hope because Tampa’s pass defense is also among the worst in the league. But that doesn’t mean Blough will be able to take full advantage.
Detroit’s other problem is that everything could be on Blough’s shoulders. Just when Bo Scarbrough started to establish himself as a viable NFL running back, he suffers a rib injury. While he’s hoping to play this week, the Bucs still have a top-notch run defense. The Lions may not be able to get much going on the ground, putting this game in the hands of Blough and the Detroit defense.
Ultimately, I have little doubt that the Bucs will score plenty of points in this game. Meanwhile, I have serious doubts about the Lions keeping pace. Winston will surely out-sling Blough in a shootout, even if his problems with turnovers continue. The Lions might have a fighting chance in this game, but I think it’s more likely that the Bucs will be able to pull away late and cover the 3.5-point spread.