- The Detroit Lions are 6.5-point favorites against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- In the previous head-to-head meeting in Tampa, the Lions earned a 20-6 victory.
- Tampa Bay has proved a pesky road underdog this season.
Ahead of Sunday’s NFC divisional round matchup in Detroit, I’m here to offer a Lions vs. Buccaneers prediction.
Detroit escaped from the wild-card round with a 24-23 win over the Los Angeles Rams, their first playoff win in nearly 30 years.
As for Tampa Bay, they demolished the Eagles as home underdogs, avenging their Week 3 loss to Philadelphia in the process.
Here’s a look at NFL betting lines for Sunday’s game, along with my bets for the contest.
Lions vs. Buccaneers Betting Odds
- Detroit Lions Moneyline: -275
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Moneyline: +220
- Game Spread: Detroit Lions -6.5
- Game Total: 48.5 Points
Lions vs. Buccaneers Betting Predictions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Spread (+6.5) vs. Detroit Lions
Historically, it’s unwise to back teams as underdogs coming off a win as home underdogs.
Since 2004-05, such teams are only 1-5 ATS in the subsequent playoff game. That applies to Houston and Tampa Bay this week.
Although I’m fading the Texans, I believe Tampa can prove an exception to that trend.
The backdoor will always be open for Tampa Bay, given Detroit’s lackluster defense. This season, Detroit ranked 21st in EPA per play, including 25th in dropback EPA per play.
Additionally, although they beat the Rams in the wild-card round, Los Angeles outgained them 425-334.
The difference in the game? Detroit’s red zone defense suddenly decided to show up.
Los Angeles finished 0-for-3 on trips inside the 20-yard line after ranking eighth in red zone touchdown percentage during the regular season.
Meanwhile, Detroit didn’t surrender a touchdown from the red zone after ranking 27th in touchdown percentage allowed during the regular season.
Now, they’ll face a Tampa side that proved more efficient in the red zone away from home.
Although they ranked 30th in the NFL this season, they were nearly 30% better on the road, ranking 11th in the league in road red zone touchdown percentage.
Plus, Tampa Bay finished the regular season 8-1 ATS on the road while racking up points in a hurry indoors – they averaged 26.4 points per game in five indoor games.
Thus, although I think the Lions win the game, I question how their defense allows them to create margin.
Add in Tampa’s relative defensive quality – they ranked 14th in defensive DVOA for the season – and I think their offense can keep up.
Back the Bucs so long as they’re available at +6.5 or better.
Mike Evans Over 64.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
Evans went for only 49 yards in the first matchup with the Lions, but that said more about the Bucs offense than the Lions defense.
This season, Detroit ranks 25th in EPA per play against the pass, along with 23rd in DVOA against WR1’s, per ftnfantasy.com.
Just last week against the Rams, Detroit allowed 357 passing yards, including 181 yards to Puka Nacua.
Plus, Evans has shown an ability to clear this number during indoor games. In four Bucs indoor contests this season, the Texas A&M product is 3-1 to the over against this number.
Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield also excels against zone coverage, which the Lions deploy at a near-60% clip.
Mayfield completes 68% of passes vs. zone coverage compared to 55% against man coverage.
Evans also leads Tampa Bay in yards per target against zone coverage and receives the second-highest target share against the scheme.
As a result, this rates out a perfect buy-low spot on Evans, who has stayed under this number in two straight games.
Josh Reynolds Anytime Touchdown (+300. 0.25 unit)
The key element of this handicap – Tampa Bay surrenders a disproportionate amount of touchdowns via the pass.
Add in the high total for the game – it’s currently 48.5 – and the fact indoor, non-divisional playoff games are 69% to the over since 2004-05, and I’m willing to take a shot with Reynolds.
Regarding the former stat, Tampa Bay has surrendered 34 total touchdowns on defense this season. Of those 34, 23 have come through the air.
Further, Detroit sees an increased share of touchdowns come through the air at home. The Lions average 1.7 passing touchdowns this season, including 2.2 at home.
Reynolds didn’t score in the previous meeting against the Bucs, but he’s seen an increased red zone target share recently.
Of his 13 red zone targets, eight have come since Week 12.
He’s also second on the Lions with four targets inside the five-yard line and third in targets inside the 10-yard line.
Although he failed to score against the Rams, he received one target inside the 10-yard line and amassed the second-most targets on Detroit.
Against a Bucs team that ranks amongst the best run-stopping units in the league – eighth in rush defense DVOA, fifth in rush EPA per play – take a shot with Reynolds.
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