It’s had its ups and downs.
But for the most part, Tom Brady’s debut season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has so far qualified as a success. As he watched the New England Patriots miss the playoffs for the first time since the last time they played without him, Brady has the 9-5 Bucs on pace to lock up their first postseason berth since 2007.
Stafford on track to play Saturday
The 5-9 Lions, meanwhile have nothing to play for in a season that saw them mercifully fire head coach Matt Patricia midseason. But interim coach Darrell Bevell appears intent on making the most of his opportunity and is starting a banged-up Matt Stafford at quarterback.
Stafford suffered a rib injury late in Week 14 against the Green Bay Packers, leading to speculation that his season and possibly his Lions tenure was over. But he returned to play in last week’s 46-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans and is on track to play again on Saturday against the Bucs.
Expect Stafford to sling it as the Lions avoid taking on the teeth of the Bucs’ top-ranked rushing defense.
Can Antonio Brown return to form by playoffs?
The Bucs will have a chance to fine-tune their offense against the Lions 30th-ranked defense a week after Brady finally got on the same page with Antonio Brown. Brown posted a season-best 93 yards against the Atlanta Falcons, including a 46-yard touchdown catch that was the highlight of his brief Bucs tenure.
At his best, Brown is arguably the best receiver in football. If he can develop into a semblance of that form over the last two weeks of the season, the Bucs would enter the playoffs with the kind of passing attack that could initiate a Super Bowl run.
No team in the league can match a receiving trio with the upside of Brown, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
The Bucs likely won’t have a chance to see their offense at full force on Saturday. Head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t expect Jones to return from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for Saturday’s game. Jones, who is in the midst of the best campaign of his three-season career, missed last week’s win Falcons after being placed on the list.
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