NFC Divisional Round Betting Preview: Buccaneers vs. Lions

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismantled the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles 32–9 on Monday, one day after the Detroit Lions outlasted the Los Angeles Rams 24–23 for their first playoff win in 32 years. A spot in the NFC championship is on the line in Sunday’s showdown between the Buccaneers (9–8) and Lions (12–5) at Ford Field, one of three rematches from the regular season set for the divisional round.

Detroit dominated Tampa Bay 20–6 in Week 5 after the Bucs’ bye week. That began a precipitous slide that saw the team drop six of seven games to put its playoff hopes in doubt. Baker Mayfield led a late-season turnaround in December and into January, during which the team finished 5–1 to clinch the NFC South for the third year in a row. The Lions locked up the NFC North on Christmas Eve to secure their first division title since 1993.

Mayfield and the entire Tampa Bay team have embraced their underdog role and they’re in that position once again this weekend as Detroit has been installed as a 6.5-point favorite. The total is set at 48.5 points, according to SI Sportsbook, a season-high for the Buccaneers, who are accustomed to unders, unlike the Lions.

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Buccaneers vs. Lions Odds and Game Info

Moneyline: Buccaneers (+225) | Lions (-300)
Spread: TB +6.5 (-110) | DET -6.5 (-110)
Total: 48.5 — Over (-110) | Under (-118)
Game Info: Sunday, Jan. 21, 3 p.m. ET | NBC

Tampa Bay and Detroit Key Stats and Fun Facts:

  • The Buccaneers beat the Lions 20–10 in the wild-card round in 1997 in their only previous playoff matchup.
  • Jared Goff (4,575) and Baker Mayfield (4,044) were two of the 10 quarterbacks who threw for at least 4,000 yards this season.
  • Mike Evans (13), Amon-Ra St. Brown (10) and Sam LaPorta (10) were among the seven pass-catchers who caught double-digit touchdowns in the regular season.

Best Bet: Under 48.5 (-118)

Tampa Bay pounced on Philadelphia early, scoring on its first four possessions. Mayfield was slinging the ball all over the field as five receivers finished with at least 45 yards and little-known pass-catchers, like David Moore and Trey Palmer, not only outgained Mike Evans but also found the end zone.

As bad as the first half went for the Eagles, they were still very much in the game at halftime, trailing 16–9. Todd Bowles’s defense blanked the Birds in the second half and even forced a safety against Jalen Hurts. With A.J. Brown out, DeVonta Smith had a day, finishing with a season-high 148 yards on eight catches. However, no other receiver finished with even 40 yards and the Buccaneers took away the run altogether. Philadelphia, with its stout offensive line and seemingly unstoppable Tush Push, was held to 42 yards on 15 attempts.

Tampa Bay has now allowed just one touchdown and 15 total points in its last 10 quarters dating back to Week 17. This unit was tough to run on and relatively easy to throw against in the regular season, which played out when Detroit traveled to Raymond James Stadium in October. Jared Goff threw for a season-high 353 yards while the fifth-best regular-season rushing offense was held to 40 yards on 22 carries — that was one of two games rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs missed.

The Buccaneers surprisingly found success running the ball against Philly. Tampa Bay ranked 32nd in rushing yards per game (88.8) heading into the playoffs and the Eagles were a top-10 defense against the run in the regular season. Rachaad White, an inefficient, high-volume rusher, gained 72 yards on 18 carries and the team totaled 119 on the ground. The Lions present a tougher challenge on the ground as they were a top-two run defense this year and they allowed just 46 rushing yards when these teams played in Week 6.

Goff shined against his former team Sunday and spoiled Matthew Stafford’s return to Detroit. He completed a season-best 81.5% of his passes for 277 yards and a touchdown to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta. However, it was Detroit’s running back tandem of Gibbs and David Montgomery who got on the board first, each with a rushing score in the first quarter to establish an early lead.

Stafford had no issues moving the ball against the Lions as he threw for 367 yards and two scores — roughly half of that passing production went to rookie sensation Puka Nacua. However, once the Rams got into the red zone, Detroit’s defense hunkered down. L.A. came away with three field goals on three trips inside the red zone, stops that proved to be crucial in a one-point win.

The Lions, on the other hand, scored every time they advanced to the red zone. Amon-Ra St. Brown helped the offense approach the goal line as he led the team with 110 receiving yards while Gibbs, Montgomery and LaPorta each found paydirt. Detroit’s win brought the team’s record at Ford Field to 7–2 this season, though it fell to 5–4 against the spread as Dan Campbell’s team did not cover as three-point favorites.

Given both teams’ success against the spread (tied for an NFL-best 12–6 including the playoffs), it’s difficult to pick a winner with the points. So instead, let’s play the total. Overs hit at a high rate for the Lions (11–7), especially at home (6–3). But that’s not the case for the Buccaneers (6–12), who have seen the under cash in four straight games.

Detroit’s game against Los Angeles last week was shaping up to be a shootout early on, yet only nine points were scored in the second half as the defenses stepped up. Only 26 points were scored the last time these teams played, which fell well below the 43.5-point total. It shouldn’t be a slog as Goff and Mayfield will both find success throwing, but 48.5 points is a hair too high to pick the over.

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