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Matchups of Note in Tomorrow’s Lions-Bucs Game

Lions RB Kevin Smith vs. Buccaneers run defense

Smith has set career highs for carries and rushing yards two weeks in a row. He had 24 carries for 112 yards Sunday at the Carolina Panthers. New quarterback Daunte Culpepper is sustaining drives, leading to more carries, and new fullback Moran Norris is opening holes, leading to better carries. The Bucs have faced seven of the top 10 backs in the NFC and have held them all under 100 yards, with no touchdowns, though.

Buccaneers RB Warrick Dunn vs. Lions defense

Dunn is the kind of back who can give the Lions fits because he’s very slippery. He runs almost at an angle sometimes and always runs low to the ground. He’s hard to tackle, and when you factor in the fact that the Lions are a very poor tackling team, you have a situation in which Dunn could excel. Dunn has become the featured back as a result of the loss of Earnest Graham (ankle), but the Bucs will work in others in this one. Still, Dunn will get the bulk of the work, including some throws in the passing game.

Lions WR Shaun McDonald vs. Buccaneers CB Phillip Buchanon

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper will likely throw often to wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who will likely be covered by cornerback Ronde Barber. McDonald could get some opportunities in this game, though. Johnson has a thigh injury that has limited his practice time. Mike Furrey has been limited by a concussion. McDonald is the only receiver with whom the newly arrived Culpepper has been able to develop chemistry this week.

Buccaneers TE Jerramy Stevens vs. Lions LB Alex Lewis

Stevens is fast becoming one of the real go-to guys in the Bucs offense. Head coach Jon Gruden loves his speed and route running skills. Stevens seems to have rid himself of the habit of dropping balls that he developed while he was with the Seattle Seattle. He’s coming off his best game, a six-catch, 84-yard effort against the Minnesota Vikings, and should get a lot of looks this week. Lewis is a solid nickel linebacker who is at his best in coverage. He has enough speed and ability to keep Stevens in check and force the Bucs to try another option, but Stevens should win this matchup.

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