The Detroit Lions closed 2010 with four straight wins, including a 23-20 victory Week 15 in Tampa Bay. After winning four more in the preseason, the Lions return to Tampa Bay in Week 1 hoping to keep their streak alive. Ndamukong Suh anchors Detroit's terrific defensive line, but it'll be at least another week before he's paired with top draft pick Nick Fairley, who's still recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot.
Fortunately Matt Stafford opens the year healthy following a terrific preseason in which he connected on 75.8 percent of his throws for five touchdowns and zero interceptions. That's good news for Calvin Johnson, who racked up 10 catches for 152 yards with Drew Stanton under center in last year's meeting. Stafford appeared in only three games last year, but if he can stay healthy, he may be the final piece for the Lions to emerge as contenders.
The Bucs made the jump from rebuilding to contending last season, finishing a surprising 10-6. They still missed the playoffs, though, in part due to their loss to the Lions late in the season.
The good news is that Tampa Bay's young offensive core will only get better. Josh Freeman took a tremendous step forward in his second year, while Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount made a lot of general managers look silly for passing on them in last year's draft. All three put up very solid numbers in last year's game against the Lions.
Fans in Tampa hoping to watch the game might want to head to the stadium -- this game looks like it'll be the league's only blackout in Week 1.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, September 11; 1:00 p.m. ET.
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Announcers: Chris Myers and Tim Ryan
TV Distribution Map: The506.com
Buccaneers: WFUS, WDAE