It didn't take long for some bad blood to start flowing ahead of Sunday's Divisional Round showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. The two teams have already met once this year in what ended up being a playoff preview, but there's already been more chatter ahead of this game than ther was the first time around.
That's what playoff football tends to do.
Some may argue that Antoine Winfield Jr. fired the first shot of bulletin board material when he called the Lions out after the Bucs huge Wild Card win over Philly.
"On a revenge tour, all those teams ahead of us beat us in the regular season," Winfield said. "We're gonna have a great time with them."
If there were any doubts about whether that was truly the first shot fired, C.J. Gardner-Johnson gave us a Fort Sumter moment this week. While giving flowers to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Gardner-Johnson threw Baker Mayfield under the bus and called him out for not being very good.
“If you give that Tampa group a good quarterback, that’s a great group. Evans, Godwin, (Russell) Gage, that’s a great group. I played against them for real," Gardner-Johnson said.
It's not particularly original, but it was a shot that was heard loud and clear by the entire locker room in Tampa Bay, including by the man at the center of the bizarre barb.
Baker Mayfield claps back at C.J. Gardner-Johnson's trash talk
Beyond being a tired critique -- one that Baker has proven wrong by having a career year -- there's so much wrong with what Gardner-Johnson said. It's not even wrong in the sense that it's disrespectful, it's factually incorrect.
Baker responded to the comment when speaking to the media on Wednesday and pointed out as much.
“I mean, I don't think he's really watched film because he mentioned Russell Gage. You know, we love Russell, but he hasn’t played a snap this year for us. He must be going off the preseason stuff the media was talking about but he didn't play our first game so I'm excited to see him. I think he's a really good player," Baker said. "Just needs to do a little more film study."
Way to take the high road, Baker.
Detroit was able to beat Tampa Bay 20-6 in their first meeting back in October, although this calls into question just how much film they watched ahead of time. The good news is that most of the reason the Lions were able to pull out a win was due to self-inflicted mistakes the Bucs made that stunted their own momentum.
Baker Mayfield had Mike Evans wide open for a huge touchdown in the first quarter, but the ball was tipped at the line and intercepted. Jameson Williams daggered the Bucs with a late touchdown, one that Ryan Neal could have stopped had he finished his tackle.
Detroit is a really good team and an even better story, but they're not unbeatable. The Bucs will have their hands full on Sunday but if they play anywhere close to the level they did against the Eagles -- or that we saw them capable of playing at during the four-game winning streak -- things might turn out differently this time around.