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Detroit Lions vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lions Play for Pride, Bucs for Playoffs

Paul Mueller@@ThePaulMuellerSenior Analyst IDecember 17, 2010

LeGarrette Blount's early-game success could open things up for Josh Freeman.
LeGarrette Blount's early-game success could open things up for Josh Freeman.Harry How/Getty Images

In a season with practically no expectations, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are assured something the Detroit Lions have tried to do for a decade: a .500 finish.

They’ll try to guarantee a winning record with a win over the Lions Sunday.

The Lions have lost 11 or more games in seven of the last 10 years, including an 0-16 campaign in 2008. They currently sit at 3-10, coming off a 7-3 win over the Green Bay Packers.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, got an early Christmas present from the Washington Redskins in the form of a botched snap after a Santana Moss touchdown with nine seconds left that brought them within one and seemingly headed for overtime.

The Buccaneers' 27th-ranked run defense allowed 172 yards to Ryan Torain, but they kept him out of the end zone and stood tall in the red zone for most of the game.

The 17-16 win put the Buccaneers at 8-5, tied with the Packers one game out of the final wild-card spot, occupied by the New York Giants.

The Buccaneers are 5-0 in games decided by three points or less and have beaten the Lions in five of their last six meetings. However, they’re 3-3 at home on the year.

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But the Lions have lost an NFL-record 26 straight on the road.

Injuries are piling up for both teams.

The Buccaneers placed rookie and third-overall pick Gerald McCoy and linebacker Quincy Black on injured reserve this week. It marks the third consecutive week in which they placed two starters on IR—Cody Grimm and Davin Joseph after Week 12 and Jeff Faine and Aqib Talib after Week 13.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s status for Sunday is still uncertain, as he is still nursing a shoulder injury, while backup Shaun Hill is out with a bad thumb. If Stafford cannot go, Drew Stanton would likely get the start.

Key Players

Detroit Lions

Ndamukong Suh: Already emerging as solid NFL pass rusher, he needs to get pressure on Josh Freeman to disrupt the Buccaneers passing game. The Lions are ranked 13th against the pass, but Freeman protects the ball well, having thrown six interceptions and lost two fumbles through 13 games.

If Suh can force a fumble or errant pass and the Lions can win the turnover battle, they could find themselves right in the thick of this one at the end.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

LeGarrette Blount: Averaging 4.5 yards per carry with five touchdowns in 10 games, Blount’s role continues to expand. The Lions allow 122.7 yards per game on the ground, good for 22nd in the league, so if Blount gets loose early, it could open things up for Freeman and his young toys at receiver.

The Buccaneers host the Lions Sunday at 1 p.m. EST.

This article can also be found at www.footballnewsnow.com.