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Detroit Lions: Key Matchups to Watch Against Tampa Bay

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Detroit Lions: Key Matchups to Watch Against Tampa Bay
J. Meric/Getty Images
Burleson TD against Tampa Bay

Over the course of this regular season I will be targeting key matchups in every game.  It's always nice to be able to start off on a positive note, which has become increasingly easy to do this year as a Detroit Lions fan.  There are some very exciting matchups to watch for this season and Tampa Bay should prove to be an important one.

It will be the first time that everyone will be able to witness how well this Lions team plays in "real" time.  Even though Detroit was impressive during the preseason, they would be the first to tell you that the next 16 games are the only ones that matter now.

Last year, the Lions beat the Buccaneers in a nail-biting overtime game on the road.  It marked their first road win since 2007.  It was also the second win in what would be a four-game win streak to end the season for Detroit and a Tampa Bay loss that would put them out of playoff contention.

In a recent Detroit Lions Blog, Calvin Johnson summed up his thoughts about that critical game in 2010 this way: 

“We just wanted to go down there and get a win against a team that was pretty good at the time. We felt we matched up well against them. We still feel the same way about it this year."

You can bet that the Bucs will not want to repeat their loss to the Lions this year.  However, the Bucs will be up against the first-string players and a much improved O-line and secondary this time.  Last year, both teams were beat up by the second half of the season and were missing valuable players.  That fact and the streak they have been on in the preseason will only help strengthen the resolve of the Lions this year.

It's early in the season but this game could end up being an ironic one.  The Lions desperately needed a win last year, especially one on the road.  That win against the Bucs shook one of the demons off the Lions backs.  This year they start their season against the Bucs on the road.  The Lions are no longer hoping to show that they can be a dangerous dark horse but that they are a legitimate force that should be taken seriously week after week, regardless of which team they play against.

This time this game is about making a different statement. 

Not one about knocking a good team out of playoff contention but one of the Lions beginning a season that could lead them to the playoffs. 

To make this statement the Lions will be looking for several key matchups.  The kind that begin and end with being on the winning side.

For die-hard Lions fans, the saying that we drink a lot of Honolulu Blue Kool-Aid and eat a lot of corn bread can be said with a much lighter tone this year.  Both of these references were euphemisms regarding the "blind optimism" that Lions fans start every season out with.  We needed and chose to be optimistic even through the toughest of years.

This year feels different.

Tom "Killer" Kowlaski knew that too.

In what would be his last interview about the Lions, Killer stated, "I think they're going to be a good team... I think it's going to be one of the most fun teams to watch in years, because I think they're going to score a ton of points."

He was reserved about how well the Lions would do and predicted an 8-8 season. But I'll risk saying that Killer is probably feeling pretty great about the Lions where he's at now—eating a lot of cornbread and drinking a lot of Kool-Aid just because he can. 

Killer knew this team was different.  He, like the rest of us die-hard fans, have witnessed a change in Detroit.

So drink up the Kool-Aid and eat miles of cornbread, my friends, but do so out of love and respect for this team.  We have waited a long time for this group to gather.  All we can do now is cheer them on and watch it unfold.

Here are a few of the matchup areas to watch for on Sunday.

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