The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have nearly saved their coach's job.
With two wins in the bucket, the voices calling for head coach Greg Schiano's ouster have begun to change their tune. Over their short win streak, the Bucs defense sacked quarterbacks and opened holes for running back Bobby Rainey to become the NFC Offensive Player of the Week per NFL.com.
Even Sports Illustrated's Peter King thinks the media called for Schiano's head prematurely. Everyone seems to be coming around on Schiano even though the Bucs only have a 2-8 record.
The Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons are floundering teams. Beating them amounts to little more than picking off the runts of the pack. These are the kinds of disasters that average teams should be able to beat and don't give any indication of really how improved the Bucs are.
Defeating the Detroit Lions would legitimize the Buccaneers' season rebound.
The Lions possess one of the best offenses in the league. They average 414.3 total yards per game, and quarterback Matthew Stafford leads the NFL's fourth-best passing offense, throwing for 3,198 yards and 21 touchdowns in only 10 games.
Nearly a third of the Lions' passing yardage comes from the best wide receiver in the NFL, Calvin Johnson. Megatron will be facing a Bucs secondary missing its starting free safety Dashon Goldson, whose suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit in Week 11 was upheld, according to NFL.com.
However, Johnson will likely be covered by cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has nearly returned to elite form after recovering from last season's knee surgery. This will be Revis' biggest test of 2013, as Johnson has abused most of the cornerbacks he's faced this season.
For the Bucs, the key to winning this game will likely be beating the Lions' pass defense. While Rainey ran wild for 163 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons, Schiano and Bucs fans should not expect a repeat performance. The Lions have the fifth-ranked rush defense in the league, allowing only 94.6 yards per game.
Their 30th-ranked pass defense, on the other hand, allows 283.8 yards yards per game. If the Bucs are going to top the Lions, it will have to be through the air and on the arm of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.
Indeed, this game holds a number of truths for the Buccaneers.
First, only a Bucs team that has truly turned the corner can beat the Detroit Lions. Coach Schiano remains on the hot seat after losing the first eight games of the season. Criticism of his coaching will be quelled only if he can bring his team around and show that he is worthy of the talent level found on this Tampa Bay roster.
Second, this could be the first real test of Glennon's franchise potential. Glennon looked good last week, but he had Rainey's 30 carries and 163 yards to lean on. Against Detroit, it will likely come down to Glennon's ability to make plays to win the game.
The Buccaneers season is pretty much lost at this point. Nonetheless, much of the team, including its head coach, is fighting for individual jobs. Beating the Lions would go a long way toward nailing down some job security.
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