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W2W4: Buccaneers vs. Lions

12/6/2014

Five things to watch in Sunday’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions:

Tampa Bay’s running game. The Bucs have been trying -- and usually failing -- to establish the running game all season. Now, they have to go up against a Detroit defense that’s No. 1 in the league against the run. It would be logical to think the Bucs simply will abandon the running game. But that’s not going to happen. Keep in mind that coach Lovie Smith is stubborn (sometimes to a fault). Running back Doug Martin is healthier than he’s been all season and the Bucs are going to try to get him on track.

Calvin Johnson vs. the Tampa Bay secondary. This looks like a mismatch, but Johnson looks like a mismatch against any secondary. The Bucs will throw a lot of coverage at Johnson and the safeties will be asked to provide plenty of help. But the Bucs can’t devote all their attention to Johnson because the Lions have a strong No. 2 receiver in Golden Tate.

Lovie’s luck. I had to look high and low for an encouraging stat for the Bucs. The folks at ESPN Stats & Information came up with one. Smith has won nine of the past 10 games in which he has faced Detroit. Overall, Smith’s Chicago teams were 13-5 against the Lions.

Mike Evans. The Tampa Bay rookie receiver is closing in on a milestone. He has 890 receiving yards. If he reaches 1,000 yards, he’ll be only the second rookie receiver in franchise history to reach that mark. Michael Clayton did it in 2004.

Decembers to forget. The Lions have lost nine straight games in the month of December. They haven’t won a December game since Christmas Eve in 2011.