Thanksgiving Preview: Buffalo Bills @ Detroit Lions
Thanksgiving staples: turkey, stuffing, family, and… the Buffalo Bills? You better believe it! The Bills look to complete the Thanksgiving Day sweep on Thursday with a win in the 12:30 timeslot against the Detroit Lions. As bad as Buffalo’s two-game skid felt among the fanbase, and the damage it did to the Bills’ chances for the 1 seed, the team could get right back to five games above .500 if they win their second game in four days.
The Last Five
Bills 14 Lions 13 (2018)
Bills 17 Lions 14 (2014)
Bills 14 Lions 12 (2010)
Lions 20 Bills 17 (2006)
Bills 24 Lions 17 (2004)
Take another look at the last three games these two teams have played… The Buffalo Bills are 3-0 with a point differential of +6. Games between these two teams have been two things: close and boring. Can the Bills buck that trend and win big, as many are expecting? Or will the offense continue to struggle and the recent pattern between these two teams continue?
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Balance – That sound you heard on Sunday coming from Motown was Sean McDermott exhaling as his team finally showed a run/pass balance that the head coach has been waiting for. Both Devin Singletary and James Cook finished with 86 yards rushing. Singletary did it on 18 carries, while Cook did it in only 11, seven fewer. The Bills have yet to get Nyheim Hines seriously involved in the offense, either. The Browns have the NFL’s worst run defense, which explains why the Bills had a great day on the ground. Buffalo will look to replicate their performance. Detroit is a bottom dweller when it comes to run defense, too. The team has another big chance this week to show balance on offense again.
Where did the MVP go? – While it was nice to see Josh Allen take better care of the football against the Browns, the one-time MVP favorite was still a shell of himself at times in the win on Sunday. For nearly half of the game Allen struggled. From kickoff up until the two-minute warning, Allen was 4/10 for 27 yards. His misses were some of the worst we have seen since his rookie year. And it wasn’t just that Allen was missing. There were times where he wasn’t even taking chances with the ball; he neglected wide open receivers on the second level to throw checkdowns or to run out of it himself. It was tough to watch and clear that the last 10 quarters of football got in his head.
After the two-minute warning, the Josh Allen we have come to expect finally made his appearance. The two-minute drive kicked him and the offense into gear. From that point on, Allen was 14/17 for 170 yards and 1 TD. McDermott was pleased with Allen after the game, saying that everyone expects him to be Superman all of the time and that he was proud of how he responded this week. The most concerning thing I saw from Allen on Sunday was his hesitancy to throw the ball at times. Let’s hope getting back in the win column proves to be good for his confidence and we see a continuation of the Allen we saw in the second half last weekend.
Contested Balls – If there is a place where the Buffalo Bills secondary has struggled this season it has been on contested catches. I cannot remember a two game stretch where the team came up on the short side of incredible, acrobatic catches. Christian Benford and Dane Jackson have played well in Tre’Davious White’s stead. However, their technique in certain situations have left a lot to be desired.
As of late, they have been victim to highlight reel catches by the Vikings and Browns. This can be expected to happen every once in a while, but this has become an issue for this defense; it contributes to their inability to get off of the field on 3rd down. With the offense sputtering, the Bills need all the help they can get on defense and 3rd and 10+ is one of those areas where they have to get off of the field. Even if they were to knock down half the contested catches, it would give the ball back to the offense a few more times a game.
What To Watch For: Detroit Lions
A Thanksgiving Show – No matter how poorly the season is going for Detroit, they always seem to show up for their annual Thanksgiving game. The Lions will be front and center on national television as family and friends all over the country settle into their respective houses for the day. The Lions are hot. They are riding a three-game winning streak after a convincing win over the (then) 7-2 New York Giants. Next up are the 7-3 Bills, another team that has had a promising start to the season but shown some serious cracks lately. I don’t expect the Lions to completely lose their roar in this one, but upsetting a seven-win team two weeks in a row is a tall task.
Opposite Ends – The Lions defense this year has been, in a word, putrid. Dan Campbell’s crew is last in total yards allowed (416 yards per game) and points allowed per game (28). They are also allowing a league-worst 6.4 yards per play and 50% third-down conversion rate. When compared to the Bills offense, it does not print a pretty picture for the “Blue Lions”. The Buffalo Bills are second in points per game, yards per game, and third down percentage and third in yards per play. Unless the Lions defense takes a massive step forward, and the Bills offense takes a massive step back, we could see a healthy distance on the scoreboard between the these two teams when the game ends.
Rushing Attack – If the Lions are going to have a chance in this game, it goes through the legs of Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift. The strength of the Lions offense is their rushing attack; the team is ranked 11th in many rushing categories. Williams is coming off a three-touchdown day against a strong Giants defense. The Bills will most likely be missing LB Tremaine Edmunds again this week, a key player in their run defense who has had a very strong year so far. The Bills had a better day than most expected against Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. However, their struggles against the last two NFC North teams they played — the Packers and Vikings — makes this something to keep an eye on as the game goes on. Scoring early and staying in front will be key for the Lions to avoid going pass-heavy late in the game.
Bills 33 Lions 20 Based on stats alone, the Bills should win this game by 20 or more. The combination of Josh Allen easing back to form and the Lions wanting to show up on national television during their annual showcase might close the gap a bit. In the end, it won’t be enough for the Lions to top the Bills. I see a relaxing win for Bills fans to enjoy while they chow down on some turkey. Then the Bills start a three game stretch which will most likely determine the winner of the AFC East. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
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