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Detroit Lions Week 15 scouting report: The Bills quietly have a top-tier defense

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Don’t sleep on the Bills.

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

For the second week in a row, the Detroit Lions will be facing one of the worst teams in the NFL led by a rookie quarterback. After smothering the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Lions will now have to face a Buffalo Bills team that is quite similar to the Cardinals in a lot of ways. Their defense is strong, their offense is weak, and they desperately try to establish the run to protect their struggling rookie quarterback.

But there are some things that make this Bills team a little more dangerous than the awful Cardinals team the Lions just dispatched of. Here’s a closer look at the 2018 Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo Bills

Last season

9-7 record (2nd in the AFC East)
22nd in points scored, 18th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 21st (26th on offense, 15th on defense)

2018 offseason

Key free agent additions: DT Star Lotulelei, DE Trent Murphy, QB A.J. McCarron (traded), C Russell Bodine (IR), CB Vontae Davis (retired)

Key losses: QB Tyrod Taylor, OT Cordy Glenn, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Deonte Thompson, G Richie Incognito, C Eric Wood, LB Preston Brown, CB E.J. Gaines.

2018 NFL draft picks:

Round 1, 7 overall - QB Josh Allen
Round 1, Pick 16, - LB Tremaine Edmunds
Round 3, Pick 96 - DT Harrison Phillips
Round 4, Pick 121 - CB Taron Johnson
Round 5, Pick 154 - CB Siran Neal
Round 5, Pick 166 - G Wyatt Teller
Round 6, Pick 187 - WR Ray-Ray McCloud
Round 7, Pick 255 - WR Austin Proehl

Last year, a mediocre Bills team snuck into the playoffs for 2017’s best feel-good story of the year. It was Buffalo’s first postseason appearance since 1999, but their first playoff game in the 21st century proved the team didn’t really belong. They were disposed of by the Jacksonville Jaguars 10-3 in an ugly-looking game that belonged in the preseason.

With the defense carrying the team, the Bills went into the offseason looking to finally bolster their offense, and that meant moving on from the inconsistent Tyrod Taylor and ushering in a new era with a young, rookie quarterback: Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Paired with last year’s second-round pick, wide receiver Zay Jones, the Bills—much like last week’s opponent, the Cardinals—were hoping for an offensive revolution.

Much like the Cardinals, they haven’t quite gotten it yet.

2018 season thus far (4-9)

Week 1: Loss to Ravens, 3-47
Week 2: Loss to Chargers, 20-31
Week 3: Win over Vikings, 27-6
Week 4: Loss to Packers, 0-22
Week 5: Win over Titans, 13-12
Week 6: Loss to Texans, 13-20
Week 7: Loss to Colts, 5-37
Week 8: Loss to Patriots, 6-25
Week 9: Loss to Bears, 9-41
Week 10: Win over Jets, 41-10
Week 12: Win over Jaguars, 24-21
Week 13: Loss to Dolphins, 17-21
Week 14: Loss to Jets, 23-27

Stats:

  • 31st in points scored, 20th in points allowed
  • 31st in DVOA (31st on offense, 3rd on defense, 27th on special teams)

Allen’s rookie season was interrupted by an elbow injury that caused him to miss Weeks 7-10, which also happened to be one of the worst stretches of the Bills offensive output.

However, since he has come back, the Bills offense looks a lot different. Allen is now more running back than quarterback. In his last three games, Allen has 99, 135 and 101 rushing yards respectively. Only one player has more rushing yards than Josh Allen over the past three weeks—running back Saquon Barkley (396 vs. 335). With LeSean McCoy nursing a hamstring injury, it’s possible Allen will be the centerpiece of the Bills’ rushing attack this week.

Passing, however, has been a different story for Allen and the Bills. They have been one of the least efficient teams throwing the ball all season. Allen is dead last in the NFL in passer rating (62.8), he’s completing an NFL-low 52.4 percent of passes and is averaging just 6.3 yards per attempt (31st of 32).

But the real strength of their team is on defense. Buffalo has playmakers on all three levels of their defense and it has resulted in one of the best overall defenses in the league. Here’s just a smattering of their defensive statistics:

  • t-8th in yards per carry allowed (4.0)
  • 5th in passer rating allowed (85.2)
  • 3rd in yards per passing attempt allowed (6.4)
  • 11th in interceptions

The only reason their defense is just 20th in points allowed is because their offense is so bad. Their opponent’s average starting field position is the 32-yard line, the worst in the NFL. The Bills’ 28 turnovers (second most) certainly haven’t helped much, either.

Also, one thing to keep in mind at special teams. Kicker Stephen Hauschka was injured last week after a blocked field goal. Hauschka didn’t practice on Wednesday, but the Bills haven’t added another kicker yet. Whether Hauschka plays or not, Audible Dong is in play.

Vegas line for Sunday: Bills by 2.5