You can try and dismiss a 2-8 NFL team and scratch them off.
When that team is facing the Detroit Lions however, it's never official until the end.
Week 12 welcomes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Ford Field. In a prime position to lock up the NFC North and a playoff bid, the 6-4 Detroit Lions face another "biggest game of the year" scenario.
As they return home after a Week 11 loss to Pittsburgh, the Lions have another great factor in their favor as the majority of their roster is recovering from injuries. Detroit should have defensive end Ziggy Ansah, receiver Nate Burleson and cornerback Bill Bentley back in the lineup. Safety Glover Quin tweaked his ankle against the Steelers and missed a good portion of that game, but he's in line to return on Sunday.
Even with the return of these key players, this is another trap game that needs to be avoided. The Lions haven't established themselves as an elite team that can handle a losing team like the Bucs.
Tampa Bay has dealt with a plethora of injuries all season, coaching issues and trading a disgruntled Josh Freeman resulting in their 0-8 start. Despite their problems and their record, the Bucs have played better than their record indicates.
Outside of blowouts against the Patriots, Eagles and Panthers, Tampa Bay hasn't had a loss bigger than eight points. Now the Bucs are coming off two straight victories and have found some answers to their lineup problems.
Detroit needs to avoid stumbling against Tampa Bay in order to protect its postseason hopes. Here are a few more notes to pay attention to against the Bucs.
1. Vincent Jackson
After losing receiver Mike Williams and running back Doug Martin to injury and quarterback Josh Freeman to trade, you would think receiver Vincent Jackson would take a dip in production.
Jackson has put up monster performances this season, grabbing 56 catches for 827 yards and five touchdowns. With a favorable matchup against Detroit's 30th-ranked pass defense, they could be in a world of trouble attempting to cover Jackson.
Tampa Bay has found a hidden gem in third-round quarterback Mike Glennon. He's no gunslinger with a rocket arm, but he makes wise decisions and finds his open targets. Glennon ripped Atlanta, completing 20 passes on 23 attempts. If the Lions don't get pressure on Glennon, Jackson could surrender another 100-yard game to the ninth receiver this year. Given his top-ten skill set, Jackson could be that nightmare.
2. Revis & Co.
All the doubt about whether cornerback Darrelle Revis would be the same after his 2012 ACL tear and trade from the New York Jets should be removed. Whether or not he's "the same" or "as good as he was," Revis is still arguably the most instinctive cornerback in the game and the biggest threat in the NFL to receiver Calvin Johnson.
Revis Island has only matched up against Megatron back in 2010, and Revis won without question. Before quarterback Matthew Stafford's shoulder injury in that game, Revis held Johnson in check for only one catch for 13 yards. Johnson was targeted only four times that game and never found a groove against the Jets. Round 2 between these two on Sunday could be the deciding factor for this game.
The Bucs feature plenty of other names on the underrated defense. Second-year linebacker Lavonte David is playing at a Pro Bowl level with 87 tackles and five sacks. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is breaking out this season with a career-high six sacks. Tampa Bay will be without suspended safety Dashon Goldson, but second-year safety Mark Barron should be noted in that secondary.
3. Smart Over "Not Scared"
Year after year, the biggest opponent for the Detroit is itself. Too often have players and coaches fumbled away golden opportunities with bad penalties and decisions. If the Lions are ready to turn the corner as an elite team, it's time to finally play smart over "not scared."
After the strange call to fake a field goal with a four-point lead against the Steelers, head coach Jim Schwartz responded by refusing a label of playing "scared." When that fake failed, the Lions crumbled, surrendering a 97-yard touchdown drive following the fumble, along with a 37-27 loss.
Schwartz took that aggressive tone at the wrong time with the wrong mindset. Scared isn't the adjective to best describe his decision, but for the sake of being nice, let's just call it "not smart."
Games like this Sunday can't be coughed away like the loss against Pittsburgh. The foolish penalties and unnecessary aggressiveness need to be put to an end. Rarely in his tenure have you been able to say "Jim Schwartz really out-coached the opposition this week." It's time we see a smart team win, and against Tampa Bay is a prime time to flip that switch.
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