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Lions vs. Bills 5Qs preview: Are the Bills and Josh Allen in a slump?

Getting to know the enemy

Buffalo Bills vs Cleveland Browns Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Who really has home field advantage at this game? The Detroit Lions haven’t played in Ford Field in two weeks and the Buffalo Bills were just there on Sunday. In all seriousness, I expect this to be the loudest Ford Field has been in a very long time. It’s Thanksgiving and your Lions are coming off a three-game winning streak. Make some damn noise.

This is going to be a tough one. The Bills are one of the best teams in the league, and they’re obviously favored to win this game. It’s not going to help that the Lions will be missing Jeff Okudah for this one either. The good thing for the Lions is that the Bills haven’t looked like world beaters lately. While the Lions are 3-0 in their last three, the Bills are 1-2. What’s going on with this team?

We wanted to know the answer to those two questions and more, so we reached out to Matt Byham of Buffalo Rumblings to get the scoop. Here’s what he had to say:

1. The Bills rebounded nicely from a two-game losing streak with a win over the Browns. What was going wrong for the Bills in the previous two games and what did they do to snap out of it?

“Turnovers were a huge issue for Buffalo. They had the air of a team pressing to pass in situations where it was prudent to run. They also failed to score a touchdown in the second half dating back to the Green Bay Packers game. That all changed Sunday at Ford Field—well at least just before halftime.

“Josh Allen was off target and pressing for much of the first half, and Stefon Diggs was without a catch until he caught one for six just before the half ended. They continued to ignore the running game, when doing so was a recipe for disaster against a fierce pair of Browns pass rushers. The reason the Browns are average-at-best in that department this year has to do with the way teams are attacking them—they tend to avoid pass-heavy game plans. Buffalo wanted to buck that trend and play Russian Roulette to start the game. It didn’t go well, and Myles Garrett was up to the challenge in taking Allen down and limiting his effectiveness out of the pocket.

“Allen is clearly injured and while it’s just conjecture to say so, it appears that his mechanics are suffering, and his accuracy is all sorts of off. Allen had a similar injury in 2018 and missed four weeks. When he did return, it took him four games to return to full health and range of motion. Against Cleveland, Allen threw the ball less, with only 27 attempts. He was efficient and played turnover-free football for the first time this season.”

2. How can the Lions beat the Bills?

“I think the Lions match up well against the Bills.

“On defense: Force the Bills into red zone turnovers; mix coverages that confuse Allen so that he’s compelled to attempt a play that isn’t available. The Bills have had a tough go of it with turnovers, and until last weekend Allen led the lead in interceptions. If they’re insistent on blitzing, they must be 100% certain to get there, or else Allen will make the defense pay.

“On offense: Run the ball often and well. Buffalo is likely to be without linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and he’s been key to containing opponents’ running games and often plays an integral role containing their main receiving targets between the sticks. Target the Bills’ inexperienced secondary with Amon-Ra St. Brown. Rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam is trending toward playing and it would benefit a Bills team that’s been without nearly every starting DB for long stretches of the season, but Tre’Davious White he is not, and the Bills have had mountains of trouble containing any WR1 in recent weeks.

“The Lions must score touchdowns every chance they get—even if they get a sizable lead, it’s key to keep getting six instead of three. Drives ending without points is often an Achilles’ heel for opponents facing the Buffalo. There is some talk that it often feels like it takes a team’s season-best effort to play the Bills. That’s not to sound cocky, just that there’s a very particular style of ball that Buffalo plays on offense, of which many teams struggle to match on offense.

“The other thing to consider here in the Lions’ favor is the uniform combo the Bills will wear. They’ll be in their white jersey/blue pants combo, and they have a 9-11 record (.450) when playing in those threads. Many within Bills Mafia are superstitious, so there are some nerves with Buffalo wearing this unform on Thursday on a national stage. The last time they won in this combo was 12/28/20 on Monday Night Football.”

3. Do you like cranberry sauce? Also, should pumpkin pie just be a year-round dessert that we just always eat?

“I’m glad we’re going here, to be honest. This might get drawn out (butter joke, anyone?), so apologies in advance. Yes, I like cranberry sauce, but it needs to be cut with something sweeter for my tastes—perhaps sugar and/or oranges. Otherwise, it’s just a boring, somewhat bitter condiment you eat with sometimes equally boring turkey. Oh, and that turkey? Give me the drumsticks over everything else—though I do enjoy a generously brined turkey breast. But most of the time, people don’t prep whole turkeys the right way, and all the tenderizing flavor agents simply fall off the bird while it’s roasting away in the oven because they haven’t been taught to season beneath the skin.

“If I had my druthers, I would probably abandon whole turkey for the holiday. I’d replace it with brined breast meat cuts and drums only. I’d also add lobster, since lobster is far and away more delicious and quite relevant to what we understand to be the first Thanksgiving feast.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the pumpkin pie. I’m game for it as a year-round thing, but maybe we consider renaming it since it tastes absolutely nothing like actual pumpkin. I prefer pecan and caramel apple pie for Thanksgiving, and key lime for any time of the year.”

4. As of this moment, the Bills are a 10-point favorite to beat the Lions. Are you taking that bet?

“I would not at this point. There are too many unknowns as far as injuries are concerned. I picked the Bills to surpass the spread against the Browns only for Cleveland to score a late TD and beat it. I think the Lions have more than enough firepower to hang with the Bills. The difference in this game may come down to defensive play. After seeing Detroit’s statement win in New Jersey against the Giants, I believe things are starting to click for them on defense. I think this will be a much closer game than many have predicted.”

5. Who’s winning this thing?

“Full disclosure: I openly root for the Lions every week they don’t play the Bills and I have for years. For all that Bills Mafia has endured through generations of Bills teams, the Lions are right there with them. The same can be said of the Browns in any era outside Jim Brown and the New York Jets in any era outside Broadway Joe, but I won’t ever find myself cheering for another AFC team unless it’s playing the New England Patriots. Plus, thanks to the Lions and founding owner Ralph Wilson Jr., the Bills had uniforms during their first two seasons in the AFL.

“But back to the topic at hand. I’m picking the Buffalo Bills to win again on Thanksgiving, completing the trifecta of wins—that is each Thanksgiving game time slot. That said, I don’t think this game is going to be at all easy for Buffalo and I do understand the Lions have a chance to make the playoffs. I really do hope it happens for them this season and the fanbase.

“The Bills are clearly working through some issues mid-season. The worst of them may have reared their heads early in Week 11 versus the Browns, but the Bills made the right adjustments and won despite adversity—both in terms of the storm that dropped 77” of lake-effect snow and the early poor performances of so many key players.

“But the Bills haven’t had a normal week of prep in quite some time, and it doesn’t change this week. Ahead of Week 11, an illness made its way through the locker room and negated at least one day of practice, then they were forced to cancel practice in favor of zoom meetings due to the blizzard. Having to travel to Detroit further hindered their prep time. The players have lost an immense amount of prep time the last two weeks and it could come back to bite them. I’m admittedly not a fan of Thursday games, though Thanksgiving is a different beast of opportunity and it’s an honor for teams to play on the holiday. Preparing for the Lions, Buffalo must fit all prep into three days with zero rest, and a lot less practice time due to travelling back and forth from Detroit four times in seven days between Weeks 11 and 12.

“But again, I think the Bills win. There’s too much at stake if the Bills lose—even if the Lions aren’t an AFC team. If the playoffs started this week, almost every team in the AFC East would qualify for the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins would win the division due to tie breakers, while the Bills and New England Patriots would monopolize the Wild Card slots. For me, it comes down to the experience that Buffalo has in big games over Detroit’s lack of it to this point with the current regime. I look forward to this matchup and think Detroit is primed to be a major player in the NFC and beyond!”