Lions vs. Buccaneers preview: Let's get running

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Sunday’s Lions-Buccaneers game at Raymond James Stadium (1 p.m., Fox/WJR 760). 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jameis Winston


Mike Evans, WR: The fourth-year pro is closing in on his fourth straight 1,000-yard season and is the headline act for Tampa Bay’s offense. Evans ranks in the top 25 in receiving yards (735, 19th) and receptions (53, tied 25th), but doesn’t have a 100-yard game yet this season and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 7.

Gerald McCoy, DT: The five-time Pro Bowler is one of the top interior defenders in the league and has been a stud this season. Despite drawing no shortage of double teams, McCoy destroys the run game and leads the Buccaneers with five sacks. Keeping him out the backfield will be the primary focus for Detroit’s ailing offensive line, which is easier said than done.

More: Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Buccaneers

Jameis Winston, QB: Injuries and inconsistency hampered what many expected to be a promising season. After missing three starts, Winston threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Packers but fumbled twice. He’s averaging a career-low 243.3 yards per game, and career bests in completion percentage (61.9 percent) and passer rating (90.1).


Now or never: Detroit’s playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. The Lions are still the No. 8 seed in the NFC and sit two games out of a wild-card spot with four games remaining. The math is pretty simple at this point: lose and the playoffs become all but an afterthought.

Slow start streak: The Lions have been outscored 36-3 in the first quarter the past four games. Whether it’s the coaching, the game plan or a lack of sense of urgency, the troubling trend and early deficits have bit them the last two games. The Buccaneers are far from dominant, but three of their four wins have come at home.

No rush: The lack of a consistent pass rush has been a glaring problem for Detroit’s defense. The Lions have just two sacks over the last two games, with one coming from Ziggy Ansah, who has been battling nagging injuries all season. In desperate need of a spark up front, a return trip to Tampa could light a fire under former Buccaneer Akeem Spence.

Lend a hand: The Lions have been one-dimensional on offense and lacked balance all season. But with Matthew Stafford nursing an injured throwing hand, Detroit needs its running backs to step up now more than ever. The two times Stafford has previously played through a hand injury in 2011 and 2016, his effectiveness and accuracy dropped off and the Lions were rarely successful.


■ WR Kenny Golladay leads all NFL rookies with five receptions of 30-plus yards.

■ Rookie RB Tion Green’s 33-yard carry on his first career rushing attempt is the longest in franchise history since at least 1950. Green topped the previous mark of 26 yards set by Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.

■ Golden Tate (71 catches) is the third receiver in franchise history to record at least 70 receptions in four consecutive seasons, joining Calvin Johnson (six straight, 2010-15) and Herman Moore (five, 1994-98).

■ QB Matthew Stafford completed 82.8 percent (24-for-29) of his passes last week, the second-highest single-game completion percentage with at least 25 pass attempts in team history. The record is 88 percent set by Stafford at New Orleans in 2015.

■ The Buccaneers rank 31st in pass defense (267.3 yards) and total defense (385.6 yards), and last in third-down defense percentage (48.5 percent).

■ Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston has 50 turnovers in 41 career games.

■ Since 2012, Buccaneers LB Lavonte David ranks second in the league in run stuffs (59.5) and tackles for loss (92).

■ With a 1-yard TD pass last week vs. Baltimore, LB Nick Bellore became the first defensive player to catch a TD pass since Texans DE J.J. Watt did against Tennessee (Nov. 20, 2014).