Sam LaPorta is part of our player props card for Bucs at Lions.
As one reporter who asked Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles learned, not all playoff games in the North are played in arctic conditions. While matchups in Kansas City and Buffalo featured frigid temperatures, howling winds, and frozen facial hair, the Buccaneers and Lions will play in the cozy confines of Detroit’s Ford Field this Sunday afternoon. One of these teams will be a victory away from representing the NFC in the Super Bowl, which would be a massive accomplishment for either organization.
The Bucs and Lions have a significant shared history; they were division rivals for 25 years during the days of the NFC Central. Tampa Bay departed for the NFC South in 2002 and won the Super Bowl that year, while the remaining four teams became the still-intact NFC North.
The Lions have won 32 of the 61 previous meetings, although the Bucs hold the only playoff victory in the series from December 1997. Over their last 20 head-to-head matchups, these two have split them down the middle.
After lengthy periods between playoff wins, both franchises have been rejuvenated in the last few years. Detroit just broke the longest such drought with their victory over the Rams and former QB Matthew Stafford last week, ending a streak of more than 30 seasons without a postseason win. The Bucs had their share of struggles from 2003 until 2020 when Tom Brady left New England to lead them to a second Super Bowl title.
The Lions are the favored team on home turf this weekend, with the spread having grown to 6.5 points after opening at 4.5. The total has regressed slightly to 48.5 in the third of four Divisional round games across Saturday and Sunday. We handicap our best bets on the game and player props just ahead.
Best Bet: UNDER 48.5
The Lions defeated the Bucs 20-6 in Tampa in mid-October. Neither team ran the ball effectively, with their joint effort combining for 86 yards on 38 carries (2.3 yards per carry).
Baker Mayfield posted arguably his worst performance of the season in that loss, averaging just 5.6 yards per pass attempt, completing less than 52% of his throws, and posting a season-worst 17.2 QBR.
Tampa Bay ranked 30th in red zone touchdown percentage this season, punching in TDs 44.9% of the time inside their opponent’s 20-yard line.
At the same time, the Bucs are 3rd in defensive red zone TD rate, allowing touchdowns fewer than 43% of the time.
In three home games since December 15, the Lions have allowed 20 points per game, held opposing teams to a 28.5% third-down conversion rate (10-for-35), and given up only 3.6 yards per rush.
Mike Evans OVER 4.5 Receptions (-135 @ Bet365)
Evans had two crucial drops in Tampa Bay’s win over Philadelphia that garnered a lot of public attention. We believe the concerns from these high-profile drops will be overblown and create value on his total going over this week.
Evans dropped seven passes of the 136 targets he saw this season. That 5.1% drop rate is below the league average for qualified players but far from the bottom.
Among players with more than 100 targets this season, Evans ranks 6th in QBR when being targeted.
Detroit has allowed the leading receiver of their last three opponents to average 11.3 catches per game.
David Montgomery UNDER 57.5 Rushing Yards (-114 @ FanDuel)
The Tampa defense ranked 6th in opponent yards per carry in 2023 and is allowing just 3.6 yards per rush over their last three games (2nd in the NFL).
Montgomery had his worst game of the season against Tampa Bay in Week 6, posting 14 yards on six carries before leaving the game with an injury.
In 15 appearances this season, Montgomery averaged fewer than 4.2 yards per carry seven times. Three of those have occurred in the last four games.
Sam LaPorta Anytime TD Scorer (+115 @ DraftKings)
LaPorta has scored at least one touchdown in five of his last eight games and in each of his previous four at Ford Field.
The rookie tight end was targeted 11 times in Detroit’s win against Tampa Bay in October and averaged 7.1 targets per game at home during the regular season.
Opposing tight ends have scored touchdowns in four of the last six games against the Bucs and five TDs overall in that stretch.
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Nicholas Berault is a proud Penn State alum whose past work has been featured on FantasyPros. He is an avid golfer and a collector of pin flags and sneakers. As a senior writer at EatWatchBet, Nicholas serves as an NFL, CFB, and NBA betting analyst.